• INSIGHT: Week 1 | Phumelele Tshabalala

    17 - 23 June
  • INSIGHT is a new online platform presented by Pippy Houldsworth Gallery debuting work by a different artist each week. New work made during lockdown will be highlighted alongside a video studio visit presented by the artist.


  • Phumelele Tshabalala's practice focuses on the human figure, examining the body as a site of expression and resistance. His work constructs new spaces where imagination collides with reality, drawing on Edward Soja's notion of Thirdspace to approach a postition of radical possibility and openness. Making use of found imagery from newspapers, magazines and online media, and combining these with his own photography and personal experience, the artist reassesses historical, cultural and social narratives, centring those that touch on identity, race and social injustice. Underpinning his practice are the notions of Flow, Layering, and Rupture, the three foundational elements of Hip-Hop translated into a visual methodology. Tshabalala creates striking surfaces alive with colour, pattern and texture, employing a wide range of media and techniques from oil, acrylic, and spray paints to printing, collage, carving and embossing. Graphic and painterly figures shift in scale and collide with flat planes of colour, bold patterns and twisting organic forms. This approach encompasses the fluidity and complexity of collective black identity, reassessing its history and creating its future.

  • Curtain Call, 2020 oil paint, acrylic paint, spray paint, printmaking, collage on canvas 175 x 190 cm, 68 7/8 x...

    Curtain Call, 2020

    oil paint, acrylic paint, spray paint, printmaking, collage on canvas
    175 x 190 cm, 68 7/8 x 74 3/4 in

    Curtain Call probes the notion of classical portraiture, presenting the figure of a young man. Looking outwards with hands clasped, his composed expression contrasts with the fabric billowing around him, suggestive of concealed emotion. Depicted with luminous veils of paint, his face shines out in contrast to the bold colours applied thickly to his jacket and the gestural, flowing lines that describe drapes of material. The drama is heightened by reflective swathes of gold paint that disrupt the picture plane, flattening its depth. As with all of Tshabalala's large-scale compositions, Curtain Call was first conceived as a collage of images, an organisation of space maintained through diverse application of media and technique. This process reflects on the construction of history, narrative, and identity, as is suggested by the embossed figure with the saxophone, deriving from an earlier print.


  • Searching for the Okavango, 2020 acrylic and carving on wood panel 122 x 92 cm, 48 1/8 x 36 1/4...

    Searching for the Okavango, 2020

    acrylic and carving on wood panel

    122 x 92 cm, 48 1/8 x 36 1/4 in



    Searching for the Okavango presents a landscape inspired by the vibrant colours of the vast Okavango Delta, located in northern Botswana. In the foreground a man dressed in brilliant green motions to a horseman riding towards the horizon and carrying a cross. Through spiritual imagery and a heightened colour palette, the work conveys the intense emotion of a mythical experience. Painterly marks and a hazy use of spray paint intensify a fantastical sense of place. The work incorporates Tshabalala's interests in painting, collage and print making. He carves graphic lines into the panel to describe the man's face, his hands and the rider, whilst in other areas he builds up the surface with collage and an impasto application of paint. Combining these techniques of destruction and creation, the work engages with different conceptions of space, opening up new possibilities.

  • I am amongst the generation of artists who consider black artistry and all its voices. We [...] reassess the possession and authorship of the various shades of our Blackness. We are both subject and object, for there is no I in we. 

    Phumelele Tshabalala, 2020

  • About Phumelele Tshabalala

    Phumelele Tshabalala (b. 1987, Johannesburg, South Africa) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He studied Fine and Applied Arts at Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, specialising in Printmaking and Painting, and holds an MFA in Visual Arts from SUNY Purchase College, New York. Recent exhibitions include International Print Center, New York (2017); Pjazza Kastilija, Valetta (2017); Momenta Gallery, New York (2016) and Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, New York (2015). Tshabalala has presented artist talks at Neuberger Museum, New York (2016) and Hudson Valley Center of Contemporary Art (2015). He was selected as a finalist for the 2017 Artraker Award.