Southern Guild is pleased to announce two concurrent solo presentations from 26 October to 16 November 2023: Honey, I’m Not Doing So Well by Nano Le Face and Grace in Grand Bassam by Terence Maluleke. Both emerging artists, Nano hails from Tshwane and Maluleke from Johannesburg. The artists work in figurative modes to document the world around them, drawing on non-traditional stylistic influences including social media, animation, popular culture and editorial photography.
Honey, I’m Not Doing So Well stitches together Nano Le Face’s expanding world through an immensity of snapshot-like vignettes that capture the lustre, aspirational hedonism, social media obsession, melodrama and melancholy of contemporary youth culture. The immediacy of Nano’s chosen medium – coloured pencil and wax crayon on paper – is an apt vehicle for an insatiable maker. Drawing on discarded packaging, pulled pages from old books and the back of used envelopes, his work acts as a conceptual conduit for his lived and virtual experience. The artist’s social exchanges, his overheard conversations and consumed digital content are urgently filtered through a prolific process of making.
Born in Tshwane in 1999, Nano came to art-making during the COVID pandemic after a stint studying film. Self-taught, he spent a two-month period as an artist-in-residence at the GUILD Residency in Cape Town earlier this year. The residency prompted a notable upscaling in his works, largely informing the presented series of drawings.
Within each flattened frame – reduced to cross-hatched colour and line – Nano uses a lexicon of popular iconography and text as a means of sardonic storytelling and visual processing. His scrawled witticisms and borrowed aphorisms from film, music and literature contemplate the assimilated aspirations and existential hunger of his generation. The viewer becomes a privy voyeur, gaining access to moments of intimacy and confidential longing. These subjects’ temporal desires chronicle a broader observation of the Americanised models of success, visibility and beauty that characterise today’s virtual realm.
The artist’s sorority of female figures emotionally span both self-obsession and self-deprecation, come-hither bravado and raw vulnerability. Some of these idolised figures have been drawn from women in the artist’s life; their likenesses reflect the dichotomous reality of coming of age in a world whose social structures are in a state of dissolution and perpetual reinvention. Nano’s creative output is indicative of an artist born of this ‘Instagram generation’, the sheer repetition of his female figures echoes the mass production of consumerist culture and the ubiquity of content-producing influencers.
Grace in Grand Bassam is Terence Maluleke’s response to a month-long residency at La Fourchette de Rōze in the coastal town on the outskirts of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Visiting the country for the first time, unable to speak the language and with little access to the Internet, he felt a strange sense of familiarity when encountering the local community. His series of acrylic paintings foreground the human body – angular contortions of dancing figures, a squad of soccer players moving in tandem or sprawled out at rest, the zigzagging invocation of a man with arms stretched out in prayer.
In many of these scenes, the humble plastic jelly sandal – known locally as “lêkê” – is ubiquitous, no matter the age, gender or station of its wearer. Maluleke describes its “democratising” effect – worn and shared freely, the property of one and all. He exploits the sandal’s graphic shapes as a repetitive motif; employed en masse, it is a synecdoche for communal life. Maluleke often disrupts his narrative scenarios by calling attention to the artwork’s surface: fragments of calla lilies float over a soccer player’s sandaled feet, stars dance across a pandemonium of figures in motion. There is joy and pride here, celebration and ritual, with women bedecked in elaborate gold jewellery and hair ornaments depicting lizards, crocodiles, flowers and fish.
Terence Maluleke, Lêkê Lêkê. 2023. Cr. Hayden Phipps. Southern Guild.
Maluleke came to painting having established himself as an accomplished visual developer for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Animation, Netflix and Triggerfish. Born in 1995 in Soweto, he draws inspiration from the township community he grew up in, creating stylised portraits and still-lifes that explore contemporary Black experience. Foregoing the specificity of individualistic portraiture, he embraces the multiplicity of pan-African Black identities in his art. The artist co-founded Kasi Sketchbook, a non-profit project that offers drawing clubs to children and young adults in Johannesburg’s townships. He works from his studio in August House in the inner city, and has exhibited at Latitudes Art Fair and in group shows at Kalashnikovv Gallery and Bkhz.
ABOUT SOUTHERN GUILD
Established in 2008 by Trevyn and Julian McGowan, Southern Guild represents contemporary artists from Africa and its diaspora. With a focus on Africa’s rich tradition of utilitarian and ritualistic art, the gallery’s programme furthers the continent’s contribution to global art movements. Southern Guild’s artists explore the preservation of culture, spirituality, identity, ancestral knowledge, and ecology within our current landscape. Their work has been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, LACMA, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pérez Art Museum, Mint Museum, Harn Museum, Denver Art Museum, Vitra Museum, Design Museum Gent and National Gallery of Victoria. Since 2018, the gallery has collaborated with BMW South Africa on a year-round programme of meaningful activations that promote artist development and propel their careers. Located in Cape Town, Southern Guild will expand internationally with a 5,000 sqft space opening in Melrose Hill, Los Angeles in February 2024.
Press release courtesy of Southern Guild