Neo Matloga

Neo Matloga layers charcoal and collage to choreograph nostalgic portraits of the everyday.

Matloga paints intimate domestic scenes that dramatise the minutiae of life in South Africa. His ‘collage paintings’ use ink, charcoal and found photographs of friends, family and prolific South African figures to reflect on social and political topics of past and present.

  • Neo Matloga, solo show at Vrienden v/h S.M.A.K., Gent, 2021
  • HI-STORYTELLING, group show at Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg, 2021
  • Back of the Moon, solo show at Stevenson Gallery, Johannesburg, 2020
  • neo to love, solo show at Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, 2019
  • Awarded the ABN AMRO Art Prize, 2021
  • Awarded the Koninklijke Prijs voor Vrije Schilderkunst (Royal Award for Modern Painting), 2018
  • Work in collections including including City of Ekurhuleni, South Africa; Fries Museum, Netherlands; Dordrechts Museum, Netherlands.
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Studio shoot by Jonathan de Waart for Avant Arte.

An atmospheric palette of greyscale tones is punctuated by the artist’s high contrast treatment of light and shadow, drawing on chiaroscuro painterly traditions dating back to the Renaissance. Matloga sees his canvases as ‘alive’ — the residue of his materials akin to symbolic traces of memory and history. Black resilience is enshrined throughout the joyful scenes he choreographs on canvas. In his own words — “what you see is life.”

"I am hoping the audience will see their emotions, their experiences, their spirits living on my canvases."
Matshidiso-le-Matjale by Neo Matloga
Matshidiso le Matjale, Neo Matloga, 2020.
Courtesy of the artist and Stevenson Gallery.
Wang rata na by Neo Matloga
Wang rata na, Neo Matloga, 2020.
Courtesy of the artist and Stevenson Gallery

Through painting Matloga assembles archives of Black love. Matshidiso le Matjale (2020) shows a couple locked in an embrace. In the artists’ signature style, their bodies and clothes are expressed as soft smudges of black charcoal and ink, while their faces are collaged with exaggerated features. Their expressions are loving, yet the work retains a sense of ambiguity when viewed as a whole. All the same, their intimate physical connection attests to the role of tenderness as a means to sustain resilience.

Modjadji o stout by Neo Matloga
Modjadji o stout, Neo Matloga, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Stevenson Gallery.

Matloga codes his works with multiple levels of legibility, using numerous aesthetic registers — from the obscure hyperrealism of his photomontage to the titling of his works using Sepedi or Selobedu poetry — in order to deter absolute coherence and portray the nuances of everyday Black life. As such, rather than being situated within a specific time or place, Matloga’s figures are found within universal human experience. Deftly layering mediums and narratives, Matloga celebrates nostalgic, personal moments and the human tenacity that underpins them.

All artworks and images courtesy of Neo Matloga and Stevenson Gallery.
Studio shoot by Jonathan de Waart.

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Neo Matloga Studio Shoot
Neo Matloga Studio Shoot
Neo Matloga Studio Shoot
Neo Matloga Studio Shoot
Neo Matloga Studio Shoot

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