Since the publishing of Leon Battista Alberti’s treatise De Pictura in 1435, the metaphor of painting as an “open window” onto the world has been a central motif in the history of art. Codified in the rules of single point perspective, this metaphor was honoured from the Renaissance until the 20th century Avant-Gardes began to question it; shattering the window, deconstructing and repositioning it. In Window Part II, Ngqinambi aligns himself with these modernist concerns by using the concept and image of the window as a way to question painting – its processes and purpose; as well as the locus and origin of the artistic inspiration from which it generates. A continuation of the themes explored in Window Part I, presented by the AVA Gallery in 2008, Ngqinambi posits the window as a threshold, both a barrier and portal. It is something which simultaneously affirms the borders of a space and illuminates the world beyond these borders; a medium of confinement as well as an invitation for exploration.
Ngqinambi evokes this contradiction in the depiction of the “window” as an illuminated box, which becomes a recurring symbol throughout the exhibition. These cubic structures communicate the frustrations and dangers of of being “boxed in”, of being subject to restriction, uniformity, and dogma. Yet the brilliant light they effuse and project promise illumination on the other side, a divine freedom of existence and expression, a space in which the two are effortlessly intertwined. Figures in uniform rows and circles are placed in direct contrast to figures who tumble in ecstasy and exploration, swirling in imaginative free play. These figures are not falling, but flying and floating, liberated; while their counterparts sit in claustrophobic immobility, faceless and expressionless. The artist’s journey then, according to Ngqinambi, is the navigation of the terrain between these two poles, moving with intent beyond the structures and limits prescribed to us, towards a fertile space of unrestricted creativity.
Honouring Ngqinambi’s love for theatre, this exhibition is accompanied by a performance which is to take place at Greatmore Studios in Woodstock on the 8th and the 10th of June. Having assembled a team of musicians, dancers and artists, Ngqinambi asks them to respond to his paintings in live performance. In so doing, the artist endeavours to travel through the window of painting, to expand the view, inviting viewers to experience the world of his paintings rather than simply seeing it. The world made visible on the surface of the canvas by Ngqinambi is made tangible in real time by his collaborators, resulting in a powerful and ambitious interdisciplinary project. These collaborators include dancers Andrea Pivatto, Amy Klaasen, Lusanda Dayimani, and Jackie Monyaapelo; musicians Theo Magongoma, Reza Khota, and Monwabisi Xhakwe; artists Lonwabo Kilani, Dathini Mzayiya, Kobus la Grange and Igshaan Adams; sound and light designer Bamanye Yeko and filmmaker Nadine Cloete.
A mostly self-taught painter, Ngqinambi studied at the Community Arts Project in Cape Town from 2000 to 2001. He has since participated in various exhibitions both locally and abroad and is the recipient of a number of international residency fellowship awards. In 2012 he was selected to represent South Africa at the Dakar Biennale where he was the winner of the Foundation Blachere Award and subsequently completed a residency fellowship at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany. More recently his work has been featured in the group exhibitions Future / Present (Barnard Gallery, 2016); Then and Now: Conversations in Time (Barnard Gallery, 2015); Surface: Emerging Painters (Barnard Gallery, 2015), as well as the Cape Town Art Fair (2013, 2015 & 2016) and the Joburg Art Fair (2014). Ngqinambi’s work features in several prestigious local collections, including amongst others the Iziko South African National Gallery, Sanlam, and the University of Cape Town. Barnard Gallery represented True Colours, the artist’s third solo exhibition and first with the gallery, in 2014.