STEVENSON takes particular pride in announcing Sewing Saw, an exhibition of new work by Nicholas Hlobo, his first in the Woodstock space we have occupied since 2009.
In this intervening time Hlobo has staged solo exhibitions at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo (2011), Locust Projects in Miami (2013) and Museum Beelden aan Zee, The Hague (2016). His work has also appeared at Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, SFMOMA, Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, among other institutions. His exhibition Umtshotsho, created on the occasion of his 2009 Standard Bank Young Artist Award, travelled to six local museums. Hlobo also contributed large sculptural installations to the Liverpool, Venice and Sydney biennales in 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Hlobo uses Sewing Saw to uproot and expand his personal mythology, almost in reaction to his own achievement. He says:
I am the one who formed that object, if we were to objectify it. I’m also the one who will have to dismantle it. I have to take it apart, dissect it and experiment on it to discover new things out of that process … This work is to deconstruct whatever it is I have constructed so that I get to understand the layers that I might have missed in the process of building that edifice. I was looking at it and I found it to be very proud. The process so far has become so proud that I became ignorant of the important elements that brought it to where it was – so it is time to let my hair down and go out as people do.
Sewing Saw highlights the violence central to renewal. By balancing the processes of sewing and sawing, Hlobo meditates on how builders, carpenters and seamstresses utilise destruction as a precursor to creation. Hlobo continues:
If we take self-inventory, the endeavour here needs to be focused mainly on dealing with the grotesque. If we were to go into ourselves, go inside, we’re not as beautiful as we look on the outside … In real truth, inside 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.
Hlobo presents a sculpture titled Intsimbi edlezinye which exemplifies the ‘Saw’. In English, this term translates as ‘the metal that devours other metals’. The idiom is used by Xhosa and Zulu people to illustrate the power of God. Intsimbi edlezinye is an uncertain deity – protected, impervious and vulnerable.
Sewing manifests in a performative installation titled UmBhovuzo: The Parable of the Sower. Performers seated at sewing stations raised two metres off the ground engage in sustained mending. The perpetuity of their endeavour is like the tilling and cultivating of the earth – necessary, fruitful and laboured.
These two disparate gestures at the centre of the show reflect Hlobo’s repudiation of the absolute, presenting viewers with a tableau that allows them to craft their own journey and draw their own conclusions.
The exhibition opens on Thursday 8 December 2016, 6-8pm. The accompanying performance features Mbulelo Tenza Mzazi, Unathi Mkonto, Abongile Sidzumo, Siwa Mgoboza, Mesuli Nale, Mthetheleli Dlakavu, Ndimphiwe Makateng, Yanga Jadezweni and Lunsindiso Dibela.
The gallery is open throughout the season, except on public holidays (16 and 26 December, and 2 January); on 27 December hours are 10am to 1pm.