Nicholas Hlobo: Elizeni Ienkanyiso


​​With menagerie of reptilian and aquatic animals, including turtles, lizards, snakes, and hatchlings, artist Nicholas Hlobo describes the experience of creating the pieces in his current exhibition as a process of “finding joy or warmth” after the effects of the global pandemic, and this sentiment is echoed in these animal’s cold-blooded nature and their need to seek heat to survive and flourish.

Follow the artist’s process, practice, and latest body of work which is on view at Lehmann Maupin through 23 April.

Photo by Ilan Godfrey

In this body of work, the artist introduces colorful acrylic paint for the first time, returning to a classic fine art medium that he has not employed since he was a student.

Hlobo’s combination of acrylic with his signature leather and satin ribbon interventions unites craft and fine art materials within a single canvas, reflecting his enduring interest in resisting strict dichotomies and hierarchies in favor of fluid hybridity.

Photo by Ilan Godfrey

Nicholas Hlobo allows himself to work intuitively, painting abstract forms directly onto canvas as they emerge from his subconscious, and throughout this process, his narrative reading of each work continually evolves as it is influenced by his philosophical and intellectual landscape.

There are very few things that are planned from conception, and most are allowed to create themselves. It is all by chance that [these works] got to have the same characteristics. They somehow got to be part of the same family. That is informed by how the acrylic paint has been maneuvered.
Nicholas Hlobo Artist
Nicholas Hlobo, (L to R): Ndange Cilikishe (2021); Sondela maCilikishe, (2021). Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London. Photography by Eva Herzog. 

These two works form a pair of lizards, one female and one male. Ndange Cilikishe translates to “embrace me, Master lizard,” while Sondela maCilikishe means “come closer, Madam lizard.” The female lizard is depicted looking longingly towards her partner while the male calls to his mate for a passionate embrace.

Hlobo genders his lizards with an eye towards the animal kingdom, particularly birds, where the most elaborate plumage is reserved for the male of the species. These two paintings form a reptilian family, and the works Iyuk'welincinci and Iyuk'welidala represent the children born to these lizard parents.

Nicholas Hlobo, Untitled (TBC), (2021). Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London. Photo by Anthea Pokroy.

Nicholas Hlobo: Elizeni Ienkanyiso is on view until 23 April. Book your visit here.

Text and images via Lehmann Maupin, read more here.