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Sam Nhlengethwa

Artist 195

Sam Nhlengethwa

Collage - Social Commentary

Sam Nhlengethwa (born 1955) is a South African artist known for his use of collage and love of jazz in his art. His subject matter often includes jazz musicians drawn from growing up in a family of jazz musicians. He has also spoken about how the structures of jazz music act as inspiration for his collages, where one subject or feature dominates his work, and other features ‘improvise’ around it.

He mentions, “Jazz is rhythmic and it emphasises 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. As a collagist and painter, fortunately, the technique allows me this freedom of expression… What I am doing is not new though, as there are other artists before me who painted jazz pieces. For example, Gerard Sekoto, Romare Bearden and Henri Matisse.”

His work is largely figurative and he explores themes that are close to his heart such as the plight of mineworkers, jazz and the physical space of contemporary Africa. In his prints and paintings, Sam Nhlengethwa uses overlays of techniques such as collage painting, drawing and photography. His fine sense of colour and form lend an abstract quality to his work.

His use of photos in his collages adds an archival element to his work. He documents a perspective into South Africa.

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