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Featured Artist: Sam Nhlengethwa

14 Sep

Play this before you read:

I noticed Sam Nhlengethwa’s art work out of the corner of my eye while walking through the SABC 1 office building last weekend and I immediately fell in love.

"Midnight Blues" - 1999 - Mixed media & construction

Nhlengethwa has said he paints jazz pieces as “an outlet for expressing [his] love of the music,” so he listens to jazz music and visualizes the performance as he paints.1

"Tribute to Miriam Makeba" - 2002 - 7 color lithograph

Nhlengethwa adds that in jazz, “there are vocal styles that include freedom of vocal colour, call-and-response patterns and rhythmic complexities played by different members. Painting jazz allows me to literally put colour onto these vocal colours.
“Jazz is rhythmic and it emphasizes interpretation rather than composition. There are deliberate tonal distortions that contribute to its uniqueness. My jazz collages, with their distorted patterns, attempt to communicate all of this.”2

Nhlengethwa also notes that he is not the first artist to call on jazz composition and jazz musicians for inspiration. He cites Romare Bearden as one of his predecessors.

"Showtime" by Romare Bearden. I took this photo in The Rose Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City

I was ecstatic to find out Nhlengethwa’s works are currently showing in the Goodman Gallery here in Johannesburg (through 20 October)! The exhibition is titled Kind of Blue, after American jazz trumpeter/composer Miles Davis and his quintet’s iconic 1959 album (this quintet included John Coltrane on the saxophone). Davis’ Kind of Blue is playing on loop at Nhlengethwa’s exhibit, so I included one song from the album in this blog post to invoke a similar audio-visual sensory experience for all of you who aren’t here in Joburg to check out the show for yourselves.

"Kind of Blue" - 2009

I’m definitely going to check out Kind of Blue later this week!

What is your take on Sam Nhlengethwa’s collages? Do you think this medium is overdone?

Until next time,