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Iqunjelwe
Nicholas Hlobo
Artwork 2018
Artwork: Nicholas Hlobo, Iqunjelwe (2018). Ribbon and leather on canvas. 160 x 250 cm. Private collection.
Artist Nicholas Hlobo Title Iqunjelwe Date 2018 Materials Ribbon and leather on canvas Dimensions 160 x 250 cm Credit Private collection

Nicholas Hlobo is an artist of rare dexterity. In turn monumental and intimate, heavy and weightless, his works evade the themes ascribed to them, resisting facile explanation. Their titles, most often written in Xhosa, only augment their uncertainty. Some read as unclear warnings – Zophalala futhi (They will fall apart again), Unojubalala (She is pale) – others incline towards the metaphysical; Izithunzi (The Shadows), Isisindo samadlozi (The weight of the ancestors), Uvuko (Resurrection). Hlobo moves fluently between performance, installation and painting (the imperfect word he uses for his hybrid works on canvas). In each, there is a tactile engagement with material – be it rubber, leather, copper wire or ribbon. For the artist, the materials are metaphorically charged and exist beyond their physical bounds. Assembled together, they become anthropomorphic abstractions; no longer threads and substrate but veins and skin. “In truth,” Hlobo says, “we’re all cords, plugs and connecting points; some split, some broken. Yet the body mends itself, the body continually grows. It’s a never-ending process, it’s a progression – and the mind does the same.” 

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