Phumelele Tshabalala: Becoming water from the same source

12.04.2021 | Blog | BY:

Presented by Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, Becoming water from the same source by South African artist Phumelele Tshabalala, is an enchanting and vibrant collection of work. The exhibition marks Phumelele’s first solo exhibition, and collates a series of his artwork which utilises a variety of mediums. Each piece is used to showcase both the individual and interpersonal experience.

The exhibitions title Becoming water acts as a metaphor denoting Phumelele’s own self-discovery, his experiences and those he has had personal and or fictional relationships with. Each piece of work takes on the life of his muses: with effervescent oil paint, the figures in his work are draped in garments dripping in a hodgepodge of colours with vivid faces that are familiar to the eye.

These paintings also appear to present Phumelele’s duplicitous identity, having recently relocating to Johannesburg after living and working in the US for a number of years. These individuals, many of which are black, with some key African American figures i.e. Ron Finley (seen in Gangsta Gardener). These figures are adorned in outfits that are akin to bright and dynamic patterns often used by Africans in clothing. Reminiscent of different cultural traditional wear, Phumelele presenting these African American characters in African clothing acts as a meeting point or bridge between the two: culminating his personal connection to both cultures.

Gangster Gardener, 2021

There is a fantastical element that is prevalent in each piece, as Phumelele incorporates different carving techniques that fragment the canvas. This is a practice that both deconstructs the original image whilst simultaneously constructing something completely new. Phumelele’s presents new possibilities, bringing in eastern philosophies and perspective into a western space through his artistic expression.

Let him Reign, 2021

Becoming water from the same source is being featured at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery from 19th March – 1st May. To find out more, visit

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