Lehlogonolo Mashaba is a bit of a science geek if we had to call a spade a spade. He is fascinated with the breaking down of matter to its smallest form, which through his interpretation could be an atom of a physical body or the smallest part of a word, or the smallest fraction of a number.
Though there is a sense of chaos, his explosive work does not happen haphazardly. He believes in the order of things, in fact we had to smile at his consistent ordering and reordering of the contents of his studio and work-space during the time we were there. His process is meticulous. There is planning, drawing and projecting, with tracing, slicing and cutting followed by pasting and sculpting.
The fragmented image creates a three-dimensional restructuring of the object, which in Lehlogonolo’s work, is more often than not the human body. As the most loaded image in society, this body invites various interpretations, which of course leads to an open narrative. There are no closed boundaries in Lehlogonolo’s figures; they are in the process of becoming in the open-ended spaces they fill.
Lehlogonolo’s work has been on show in France, the USA and all over South Africa in the galleries, exhibition spaces and even billboards on the streets of Johannesburg. He has received accolades and commissions from many enviable clients and organisations. His work is beautiful on any scale, but there is something quite breathtaking about a fragmented body hovering four storeys above you, as it is in the ABSA building in the city centre of Joburg.
He was not the academic type at school. In fact his teachers and parents were concerned about his future prospects, because like many other creatives, he didn’t fit into any of the institutional moulds. It was at the Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg, that Mashaba found his calling. Here, he specialised in relief, intaglio, mono type and silkscreen, while working as a collaborative printer with some of our country’s most prominent artists.
Lehlogonolo says that if he had known of the options, he may have pursued a career in engineering or IT, but thankfully, the universe had a much better plan for him and thankfully for us, he pursued life as an artist. These are not just pretty works of art, his work raises questions about our existence in the world we live in, how we got here and where we go from here.
People love to separate art and science; the left and the right brain, the rigid and the fluid. Lehlogonolo’s work is that place where the two come together to create something really special. As science and our knowledge of our world keeps expanding, Lehlogonolo’s art will keep evolving and things that are still in the process of being discovered will also become a part of his language.
Who knows… the answers may already lie hidden in one of his pieces, so maybe we should take a closer look.