Politics of now explored by Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize exhibition

By Edward Tsumele

The Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize, which has been running for years now, and which aims at giving a young, emerging artists an opportunity to practice art under  a conducive and supportive environment,  is steadily consolidating its position on the contemporary art scene.

Ngobeni, the Standard Bank Young Artist for 2020, gives these artists a studio to work from, material, as well as some financial support to make sure that while the artist is in residency, their daily needs are met. It is these daily challenges that often stunt the growth of a young artist due to the lack of basic resources and the some financial support to practise their art meaningfully.

And now for the past two years Everard Read Gallery to which Ngobeni is signed to, and contemporary art auction house, Aspire Auctions have been supportive to the Blessing Ngobeni Art prize by organising a fundraising exhibition of works by  emerging  artists, of which 50% from the sales is split between the participating artists and the Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize.

This year’s exhibition which opened on Saturday September 12 at Aspire offices in Illovo, Johannesburg titled The Politics of the Now will run for three weeks and collectors can buy the art works online. You can see the online e-catalogue flipbook here: https://issuu.com/aspireartauctions/docs/bnap_ecatalogue_2020

Curated by Tlotlo Lobelo, the exhibition features some of the most prominent emerging artists in Johannesburg, and the exhibition deals with the politics of now, as Lobelo curatorial statement attests to.

 ”Politics’ stretch over time and are not fixed to the past, present or future; indeed, they unsettle typical understandings of time as we know it. This exhibition attempts to speak to the politics of yesteryear: how they intrude into the present (or “now”) and how they shape and inform the future now.

Multi-media artist Blessing Ngobeni

The politics thematised in this exhibition are threaded through the works of a cohort of young artists; these works deal with a set of political questions that invite critical reflection on the disparate yet related issues that define our contemporary world. When, for instance, one thinks of a movement such as #BlackLivesMatter, Vusi Beauchamp’s explorations of racial tensions, seen through his Jim Crow imagery, come into sharp focus. Yet this is but one example, which nonetheless prompts questions around how we read “the politics of now” in these curated works and what this “now” informs us about the past and the future?

The “now” becomes a conceptual axis of a kind, which invites us to go backwards and forwards and reflect, at once, on our states of existence. Thus, the narratives in each of these artworks are more than visual reflections that appease our aesthetic appetites, they are, after all, loaded with messages that spread through times and allow us to reflect on how we inhabit the world.”

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