Nandipha Mntambo: Transience

Nandipha Mntambo: Transience

STEVENSON is pleased to present Transience, a solo exhibition by Nandipha Mntambo running from April 10 to
May 16, 2014. Comprising video, sculpture, painting and printmaking, this is the artist’s first large-scale showing in Johannesburg since her Standard Bank Young Artist tour in 2011-12.

The various elements of the show are structured around themes of nostalgia, mythology and embodiment. The experience of nostalgia here is not a romantic longing for something unpolluted or innocent but rather a yearning to uncover an original form, to reveal images that are collectively known and experienced, but which are also deeply personal to every human life. The mythological character of Pothos, the figure of eternal longing or yearning, is ever-present in this body of work.

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In the artist’s latest series of oil paint and cow hair paintings, titled Enfold-me, Mntambo works up a series of thickly layered abstract forms that are indeterminate and brooding. The densely held forms and sensual surfaces speak to the vulnerability of experience, exact recall giving way to primordial substrate.

Of particular significance to Mntambo is the embodied aspect of experience and how collective imagery may be housed within each individual’s physicality. The sculptures on show carry the traces of the artist’s process of moulding, cutting and shaping of hide – attention to each skin that reveals the physical rituals undertaken to bring these forms to life. The cowhide acts a rigid container, protecting the lacunae of each of these vessels – their hollowness understood as something of value.

The new two-channel video work Marie Sara continues the artist\’s long-held fascination with the sport of bullfighting. Mntambo explains:

Marie Sara is a French bullfighter who in 1991 was Europe’s only female rejoneador, a bullfighter who fights the bull on horseback. She is now retired and trains younger fighters from her farm home in Nîmes. Her experiences in this male-dominated arena were my initial interest and motivation for making this video work. I wanted to get an insight into the world of bullfighting through her memories – what she chooses to tell me, what she may not want to tell me and the things she may forget to tell.

On the first screen we see a series of video studies of the Arena of Nîmes, once an important site for bullfighting in Europe, now a monument to the past. The amphitheatre itself and sculptures dedicated to past matadors are treated as still lifes through a sensual, slow tracking of surface. The second screen introduces us to Marie Sara herself, but denies easy access (she speaks in French and the conversation is not subtitled), instead asking that we use Sara’s indeterminate gesture, tone and movement to feel into the story she tells. As we move back and forth between the screens we are caught between fixed meaning and the ineffability of experience.


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