18 February 2021
Triptych, ‘In Dedication’ the new nucleus
On February 4, 2021, the artist Senzo Njabulo Shabangu shared a series of images from his studio via social media. From what I saw, it looked as if he had just finished working on what appeared to be a new piece. A closer look at the images revealed a compelling triptych. The work was rich with textures where the cutting tools had found their way in the realisation of form. The work also featured an interplay between image and text. As I looked at the images of this new work, I realised that it was more than half a decade since I last spoke to the artist about his work and life.
‘In Dedication’, the new piece, depicts five figures confidently challenging the viewer’s gaze as they look out of the picture plane. In my first viewing of this artwork, the central figure struck me as a reference to Barack Obama, the former state president of the United States of America with a slight-twist reference to the late former South African state president, Nelson Mandela. But I could have been wrong. I think most first impression of an art experience without the presence of the artist rely on instinctive guessing, visual vocabulary and prior knowledge of the artist’s past work that the viewer has been able to accumulate over time. We can be agreed that the discourse that the work attempts to erect within itself as a narrative, adds to the interactive moment with the artwork. In liberal circles such conclusions are permissible. But often they are nowhere near to what the artist intended to say to us. In our journey to make sense of works of art, we are at liberty to interpret the work in any way in our effort to make sense of it. However, it is the artist who can guide us towards clarity with regard to what the work is really about ///(more…)