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The artist who makes pictures of music in the key of life


The artist who makes pictures of music in the key of life

An exhibition at the Wits Art Museum pulling together the print work of Sam Nhlengethwa is a must-see

Graham Wood

There’s no doubt that Sam Nhlengethwa is a prolific artist. Over more than four decades he has been tirelessly productive, with seemingly endless capacity for work and experimentation.

He paints, draws, and perhaps most famously, collages. He’s even collaborated on large-scale tapestries and mosaics. But running through it all is a steady stream of smaller printmaking collaborations: lithographs, linocuts, etchings, photogravures and screen prints. He’s made 163 prints with the Artists’ Press studio alone, and has also worked with the Artist Proof Studio, LL Editions Fine Art Lithography Studio and MK & Artist Print Workshop.

So, curator Boitumelo Tlhoaele had rich pickings when selecting works for this retrospective at WAM, covering Nhlengethwa’s prints from 1978, when he graduated from the famous Rorke’s Drift Art and Craft Centre, to 2018. Nhlengethwa became fascinated with the medium in the late 70s when he was a student. He returned to it with particular vigour after winning the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year award in 1994, and used printmaking as part of a body of work that focused on jazz. ..

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