(b.1985 Tzaneen, South Africa)
Blessing Ngobeni was born in 1985 in a small rural town of Tzaneen in Limpopo. At the age of ten, he moved to Johannesburg where, after a tumultuous decade, he entered the contemporary art scene. Bringing with him a unique style and a critique of political regimes, Ngobeni made the corruption, incompetence and duplicity of current South African ruling elite the subjects of his art. He tackled the disconcerting consequences of betraying democratic ideals, the failure to learn from historical tragedies and the expanding gap between the rich and poor. This critique is informed by Ngobeni’s own experience, the hardships and challenges he had to confront as a child and adolescent.
In 2011, Ngobeni received the Reinhold Cassirer Award which afforded him a three-month residency at the Bag Factory in Fordsburg, Johannesburg. During his residency, he interacted with veteran artists David Koloane, Patrick Mautloa and Sam Nhlengethwa who further motivated his aspirations of pursuing art seriously. He also benefitted from visiting international artists; one outcome being the Emergency Exit exhibition, for which he collaborated with Nigerian artist Omega Udemba in 2012.
The following year he was a recipient of the Impact Award from the Arts and Culture Trust and was listed as one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans. At this point, Ngobeni was on the rise, not only was his name circulating within the local art scene but he began entering the international arena through artist residencies. In 2015 he attended a two-month residency at the Headlands Centre for Art in San Francisco and in 2016 he was the only artist from Africa among several international artists selected for the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion Program. He also took up another residency in New York and shortly afterwards, and visited France to attend a graffiti workshop called Grafikama in 2016.
Although Ngobeni has been exhibiting his artworks since 2007, his visibility in the contemporary art scene took effect in 2012 when he joined Gallery MoMo, which facilitated his participation in noteworthy local and international projects. Some of his exhibitions during this time were In His State of Madness (2014) and As If You Care (2015). His subsequent move to the Everard Read Gallery at the end of 2015 accelerated Ngobeni’s art career. His notable exhibitions since 2015 have been The Song of the Chicotte (2016), Masked Reality (2017), Enemy of Foe (2018) and A Note From Error (2018) in Johannesburg, Cape Town and London. Ngobeni enjoys regular appearances at the FNB Joburg Art Fair and Investec Cape Town Art Fair. His artworks have been also featured at the EXPO Chicago (2017 and 2018) and PULSE Miami Beach (2018) in the United States.
Ngobeni is currently advancing his artistic trajectory. In particular, he is expanding his range of creative mediums through producing free-standing and wall-based sculptures, video animations, sound installations and live performances. These recent developments in terms of medium bring into effect rich contents and dynamic expressions to Ngobeni’s art, as his latest exhibition A Note From Error demonstrates. They also give a curious twist to his hybrid language which points to various references: artists Dumile Feni, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Norman Catherine, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró; the artistic grammar of Surrealism, the rebellion of Dada and the symbolic force of Neo-Expressionism; economic use of visual elements of Minimalism. These qualities expand the depth of Ngobeni’s art, equally they articulate effectively its fusion of nightmarish, absurd, beautiful and captivating imageries.
It is of importance to note that Ngobeni is an artist focusing on more than his own evolving career. His efforts in mentoring young artists have lead him to form two projects that support graduates who are transitioning from their fine art training at tertiary institutions to their careers as full-time artists. The first, in collaboration with the Bag Factory, is the ‘Blessing Ngobeni Studio Art Award’ established in 2017. The second is called ‘Initiative’ and introduces young artists to the art industry through a series of workshops and culminates in an opportunity for them to participate in a group show. This empowering work attests to Ngobeni’s personal and professional contribution to the art world and society at large.
Artist Proof Studio in Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa
Blessing Ngobeni, Study Song of Chicotte, Everard Read, Johannesburg
‘Personal Structures: Identities’, Legate Lithography Editions (LL Editions), Venice Art Biennial, Venice, Italy.
Blessing Ngobeni: A Note from Error, Everard Read Johannesburg, South Africa
Blessing Ngobeni: A Note from Error, Everard Read London, UK
Enemy of Foe, CIRCA Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
EXPO CHICAGO 2018, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Chicago, USA
The Photography Show 2018, presented by AIPAD, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, New York, USA
Cape Town Art Fair 2018, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa
FNB Joburg Art Fair 2018, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa
Masked Reality, CIRCA Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
PULSE Miami Beach 2017, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Miami, USA
EXPO CHICAGO 2017, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Chicago, USA
Cape Town Art Fair 2017, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa
FNB Joburg Art Fair 2017, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa
Viewpoints, a group exhibition at Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, USA
Art Miami, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Miami, FL, USA
Off the wall: A group Sculpture Show, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa
Song of the Chicotte, CIRCA, Johannesburg, South Africa
In Unknown Space, Cleveland Print Room in conjunction with Hedge Gallery Cleveland, United States
Summer Exhibition, Everard Read London, UK
Art Miami 2016, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Miami, USA
As If You Care, Gallery MOMO, Cape Town, South Africa
Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa
In His State of Madness, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa
Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa
Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa
On This Earth, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa
I Made In Africa, Group Show, Africa Day, Sandton Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Exit Emergency, Reinhold Cassier Award, Bag Factory, Johannesburg, South Africa
SANNA Africa Festival, Group Show, Zoo Lake, Johannesburg, South Africa
Wasted, Unity Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Collaboration, Unity Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Untitled, Unity Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Untitled, Museum Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa
Taxi Outreach Project, David Krut Johannesburg, South Africa
Taxi Outreach Project, Group Show, Michaelis Central Library Johannesburg, South Africa
Taxi Outreach Project, Group Show, Diepkloof Library Johannesburg, South Africa
Cleveland Creative Fusion, Ohio, U.S.A.
Headlands Centre For Art, San Francisco, U.S.A.
Reinhold Cassier Award, Bag factory, Johannesburg, South Africa
- Schwabsky , Barry & Phaidon Editors, “Vitamin P3: New Perspectives in Painting”, October 2016, Phaidon Press.