STEVENSON is pleased to present Transience, a solo exhibition by Nandipha Mntambo. 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.
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 as 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 partially subtitled), instead asking that we use Sara's indeterminate gesture, tone and movement to complete the story she tells. As we move back and forth between the screens we are caught between fixed meaning and the ineffability of experience.
Born in Swaziland in 1982, Mntambo has had four previous solo shows at Stevenson Cape Town and Johannesburg, and held her first European solo exhibition at Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, in 2013. A solo show of her work launched the Zeitz MOCAA Pavilion at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, in 2014. Notable group exhibitions include the touring exhibition The Divine Comedy, opening at the MMK (Museum für Moderne Kunst), Frankfurt, on 21 March 2014; My Joburg at La Maison Rouge, Paris, and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (2013); the 3rd Moscow International Biennale for Young Art (2012); ARS 11, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (2011); the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010); the 9th Dakar Biennale (2010; Peekaboo: Current South Africa, Tennis Palace Art Museum, Helsinki (2010); Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography, Mali (2009); Beauty and Pleasure in South African Contemporary Art, Stenersen Museum, Oslo (2009); and Apartheid: The South African Mirror, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona (2008).
The exhibition opens on Thursday 10 April, from 6 to 8pm.
The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday from 10am to 1pm.
The video piece Marie Sara was produced in partnership with Institut Français.