By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
There is something about legendary artist Samson Mnisi’s work that will touch you in a certain way when you view it, whether in a single piece of work or in a solo exhibition of his works in a curated space such as an art gallery. How it touches you depends on entirely you and your own level and depth of spirituality. But whether you like it or not, you will leave the gallery space feeling that you have just immersed yourself in something deep.
Maybe even disturbing. Is it not that which makes artists’ work great after all? Well I have seen his work in galleries as well as out of gallery spaces over the years, and the work has always communicated something deep. Something out of the ordinary for me. It is a pity that he does not get to be exhibited regularly in gallery spaces as one would love to see because this is the kind of work that a relaxed art market in contemporary South Africa should be disrupted with from time to time.
It is for the same reason that many may have rejoiced when they heard that Mnisi was going to exhibit at this new space in downtown Johannesburg, sometime in August this year. It is space run and organised by the artists themselves, something that indeed should be encouraged especially in the face of the disruption of the art market by Covid-19. Then the exhibition was suddenly cancelled and we were only informed through their Facebook page on the 11th hour that it was no longer happening, but a new date would be announcned in September. Well to cut a long story short that postponed exhibition is not going happen this September either.
But the good news is the artist’s solo exhibition, the first one in many years is eventually now going to be happening in October at a new upmarket venue with the same art collective instrumental in making this happen this time with another key partner. And many who have followed this legendary Soweto artist’s career over the years must be rejoicing again anyway with the new announced date and venue.
The curators sent CITYLIFE/ARTS the below media release yesterday confirming the new date and the new venue, and of course talking rightly so, well about the artist and his art practice.
“Man of the hour: Solo exhibition by Samson Mnisi In collaboration with Asisebenze Art Atelier and Studio Nxumalo Date: 06 October 2022 Time: 18:00 pm 21 Keys Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg.
Samson Mnisi’s paintings ask one core question: What is Africa? His reply? It is not a begging bowl, a raised fist, bankrupted state, black face, but a subtracted and abstracted forcefield. Mnisi projects a psychic inscape – inner worlds explosive, turbulent, crossected, circled, obsessive signallings of Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence.
Motifs repeat themselves, life seen as variations of a single dance. Colours are bold, sometimes noisily acidic. But it’s the artist’s physical drive that emerges most powerfully – the muscularity of vision, fearless, dionysian. One senses an artist who, like Nietzsche’s Superman, will not be checked by custom, who would rather hurl us into a maelstrom and watch us sink or swim.
Here lies Samson Mnisi’s daring. He is not locked in the boxes and binds of thought, though there is a striking grid in his works which repeats itself -sliced circles, for example. However, his circles and lines are never clean or mathematical, instead they tremble and grind as though alive, even cosmic, because Mnisi’s vision is not of South Africa as an Idea, or place corrupted by a psychopathological colonial inheritance – or the bankruptcy of its current failed democracy – but a spirit world. Mnisi sings our hidden lives into existence, thrusts us deeper into ourselves, while also thrusting us outward into the cosmos.
He is unbounded, calculatedly ungoverned, as mortal as he is beyond the pale – free. Which is why Nietzsche comes to mind, why Mnisi seems a living embodied of a creative and personal struggle that has been brilliantly whipped into shape.
His creative signature is unmistakable. He has fused symbols and geometry with Abstract Expressionism, an interstellar vision of God with a dervish-like mania that echoes the ghost of Jackson Pollock. But what he has most potently achieved is a vision singularly his own, which is why he is the Man of the Hour, of this moment in time, this slice in history.
When those from the future revisit our world, our life and our time, Samson Mnisi’s paintings will surface – if they are not already indelible markers – to reveal all that was great and good and most profoundly intuitive – ever unflinchingly searching.”
And of course those that will make it to this exhibition will experience the spirit of the man of the hour.
.Man of the hour: Solo exhibition by Samson Mnisi In collaboration with Asisebenze Art Atelier and Studio Nxumalo Date: 06 October 2022 Time: 18:00 pm 21 Keys Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg.