Crying in public; bathed in invincible colour

BaneleKhozaSolo

TEARFUL yet present: Crying in Public by Banele Khoza. Photograph courtesy Lizamore & Associates.

When first you access these boldly rendered works by Banele Khoza, you might think you know what the artist is saying. And you might be tempted to wave a dismissive hand at the perceived social problems of a young man. Problems of loneliness and rejection, sex and confidence. But the more you look, the less you see and the more the mysterious and haunting Crying in Public pieces seem to predominate this exhibition offering an autobiographical reflection that might reach you in a place much deeper that you would allow at the best of times.

Part of the gallery’s mentorship programme, Khoza, who is fast becoming a name in the professional art world, was mentored by Colbert Mashile in this exhibition. He showed work last year at the Pretoria Art Museum, and something extraordinary is clearly cooking in this artist’s sense of possibility, his confidence and the muscularity of his approach. Much more than crass comments on emotional or physical states of being, the works in Lonely Nights burst with painterly audacity.

There’s scant reference to the filigree that featured in Khoza’s earlier show. But once you begin to embrace the paintings in this exhibition, you hardly miss that incisive complex linearity. Khoza demonstrates a beautiful understanding of the interface of colour and chance in a way that will touch you to the core.

The exhibition is peppered with small scale canvases all titled Crying in Public and numbered individually. By and large they’re abstract, or somewhere between abstraction and gestural self-portraiture. And in their blasts of colour or mark, be it Venetian yellow or a mild pink, be it black or blue and white, something is articulated here about how we cover up in the face of society, about how we hide our emotions or sob where we think we’re invisible. It’s not explicit, but it is sophisticated and discreet.

The works are not completely or consistently solemn, however: there’s a touch of Robert Hodgins in the numinous shapes conjured by Khoza’s paintbrush, and conjoined with the comments that shriek out loud and in bold type of the artist’s lonely nights from “I have a girlfriend” to “Fuck me”, to a commentary on how in an age of social media, you might be focused on counting likes and pretending to be working, but that it’s all a haze of pretense. The works are massaged into life with a self-deprecating humour, and an exuberant use of text all over some of them.

But it is their overall freshness that grabs you by the eye and infiltrates your whole being. Khoza works largely with a palette tinted into conventional pastel shades. His brush marks are generous and luscious and he skirts with boldness around the notion of abstraction, yielding pieces that are delightful and visually enticing.

  • Lonely Nights by Banele Khoza is at Lizamore and Associates gallery in Parkwood until March 30. Call 011 880 8802 or visit lizamore.co.za
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