Neo Matloga VISUAL ARTIST
* Photographed by Jonathan de Waart, courtesy of Stevenson Gallery and the artist. Neo Matloga, visual artist based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, splits his time between Amsterdam and his home town in Limpopo, Mamaila, where he was born and raised. Neo graduated from UJ with a diploma in Visual Arts in 2015, and he remembers the highlight of his years there as the meeting of minds in the creative community. “It was always amazing to share conversations with artists, animators, fashion designers, interior designers and architects in the making,” he says. He adds that one downside is he “never understood the grading system in art school, it kind-of took away from my experiences”. His parents always wished for Neo and his siblings to attend university, so they had to work hard during their high school final year, he recalls. “Being a doctor or an artist was always my dream, and I couldn’t weigh one over the other. It was my father’s advice that led me to take the artistic route. He told me if I study medicine, I’ll be healing people physically and if I studied art I would help people psychologically,” he says. Neo matriculated at Sandringham High School in 2011, then completed a residency at De Ateliers, Amsterdam, with a focus on painting. Last year he won
the 2021 ABN AMRO Art award, and previously, the 2018 Royal Award for Modern Painting in the Netherlands. Neo believes the personality trait that drives him forward is he has
a “big heart”. “I’ve also learnt to navigate in a gentle and polite manner, no matter the struggles faced during the journey. Lastly, my chosen way is longevity rather than fantasy.”
The recurring theme of intimacy is further explored in Ke o fa pelo yaka, Ke diile phoso, and Ompile korobela; collage paintings with titles as potent as the intimate moments they depict. In each of these, the distorted figures are intertwined in shared moments of affection. Upon closer observation, the fluidity of the figures unveils the glaring reality of the black sexual experience. The viewer is immediately thrown off by the combination of feminine and masculine features and forced to confront their deep-seated perceptions about race and gender in relation to blackness. - Luyanda Mpangele.
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