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Privacy & Cookies Policy
The tongues.cc website is operated by Voodoo Voodoo Ltd (‘TONGUES’).
This privacy policy applies to TONGUES.
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TONGUES may change this policy from time to time by updating this page and you should regularly check to ensure that you are happy with any changes. This policy was last updated on 11 February 2020.
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Neo Matloga

June 23 / 2022


South African artist Neo Matloga’s collage-paintings — as seen in his Stevenson Cape Town solo exhibition, ‘Déjà Vu’ — capture moments of intimacy, domesticity and solitude in ways that can be both subversively strange and unsettlingly profound. Each tells a story, offering a window onto the dramas of everyday life.


Q >Growing up — what key experiences have shaped your adult life?

A >Life was beautiful growing up. The surroundings were melodic, and at times absurd. There were some adversities, but this was an experience common for many in my hometown. I studied in the busy city of Johannesburg and a majority of my school holidays were spent in Limpopo — Mamaila. The travels from Johannesburg to Mamaila were an important trigger, they were formative; from these I understood that home is where the library of wisdom is.

Q >What’s your favourite ritual?

A >Waking up early in the morning and drinking tea.

Q >Tell us how your work has evolved over time and when did you first discover your love for collage?

A >When I came to de Ateliers, my focus was to become a painter, like the old masters. So I began ambitiously by using oils, later, to my frustration, I found the material overly refined and therefore I needed something to resurrect my rawness. To backtrack, before using oils I had developed a habit of documenting people’s faces from different kinds of sources. With my phone and also camera I snapped family members, politicians, actors, famous people and never knew what to do with the images. From my realisation about oils I then decided to print out the faces I had archived; I laid some on the floor and stuck some on the wall. I began cutting, tearing the faces into different anatomical features — it looked almost like a painter’s palette. That’s when I fell in love with collage. Over time I’ve continued my curiosity about painting using my chosen materials of collage, charcoal & ink. Like mathematics, painting requires problem-solving, so during the while I’ve solved some problems on the canvas by being more experimental.

Q >It’s a very powerful act — the ability to take an identifiable image, deconstruct and manipulate it away from the original. What do you like about the act of altering images and what thoughts do you look to evoke in the viewer?

A >The idea that an identifiable image can be deconstructed and manipulated, to create an imagined person who is familiar, is sometimes mind-boggling. It’s an unknown territory that leaves me in the same position as the onlooker. For me, as with the presumed audience it is all at once painful, unnerving, funny, disturbing yet discrete. The scenes I create are mostly self-explanatory, so for me it would be nonsensical to pinpoint what viewers must think. There are some hints, such as the tone, the mood, the title of the work, but this would not be a declarative starting point for reading the image.

Q >As a recurrent subject in your work, could you tell us about the relevance of family and community to you?

A >Family is everything, the heartbeat and also a pulse.

Q >How has your sense of community differed from your teenage years to now?

A >In my teenage years, community was something that was within my proximity. When I travel home there’s always an aunty or uncle that claims to have raised me. Though it may not be entirely true, I understand that it stems from the same undertone of togetherness that comes with the idiom, “It takes a village to raise a child”. That sense of deep belonging is special and beautiful. Now, as something of an “exile” in the Netherlands I had no choice but to step out of my comfort-zone by intentionally extending my circle in a quest to have a community around me.

Q >How does your work reflect on culture and brings to the forefront the socio-political issues that affect the lives of the individuals you bring to your canvas?

A >What an interesting question because I am still trying to make sense of what I do, even with words, pain, love, grief, conflict. Right now, I find that joy encapsulates what’s truly political. My thoughts are that the work I create has a universality to it. I must admit when I work I think about the people from my communities, as that frame of reference comes naturally to me. The intention is never to exclude other ethnicities, rather I mean to make work based on my experiences of everyday life. I like to think the work is a challenge for us all to look beyond a simplistic, politicising gaze. 

Q >In ‘DÉJÀ VU’, your solo show at Stevenson’s Cape Town gallery, what do you hope people will take from your work, and what’s the message that you’re trying to share through your storytelling?

A >Firstly I’d love people to understand what I’m attempting to do, which is painting. I use painting as a starting point to record anecdotes, as I imagine and choreograph. My process is to interweave materials, [and] reconfigure fragments to achieve something of an understanding of the psychology behind human interactions. The collage paintings in the show are “moments” and the conversation I would like to have with the viewer is more of an invitation; I want them to imagine what happened before and what’s going to happen afterwards. I think the works have a silly and mischievous side, as well as a serious and conflicting side, so I’ll leave the message for the audience to find.

Q >As a winner of the 10th ABN AMRO Art Award, tell us what are your next goals as an artist, and how this recognition might help you push forward your ambitions?

A >I appreciate the importance of that recognition; I feel seen and acknowledged. Being validated has allowed me the freedom to explore and to intensify the curiosity in the studio. I’m always seeking to improve and reform the visual aesthetic of my work. I like to keep my goals nurtured and nested. I am a strong believer in that…


Neo Matloga was born in 1993 in Mamaila, Limpopo, South Africa, and is currently based between Mamaila and Amsterdam. He studied Visual Art at the University of Johannesburg, and completed a residency at De Ateliers with a focus on painting.
As part of his winning of the 2021 ABN AMRO Art award, his show, along came your eyes, is on at the Hermitage Museum, Amsterdam, through 2 October 2022. Other solo exhibitions include ‘Déjà Vu’ (Stevenson Cape Town, 2022), Back of the Moon, (Stevenson Johannesburg, 2020), my hero is always next to me (Stroom Den Haag, the Hague, 2021) and We just want to be closer (Marta Herford Museum for Art, Germany, 2021).
He has taken up residencies at Foundation AVL Mundo, Rotterdam (2019); Thami Mnyele Foundation, Amsterdam (2018); Zeitz MOCAA, Segera, Laikipia, Kenya (2018) and The Bag Factory, Johannesburg (2015).
Matloga was nominated for De Volkskrant Beeldende Kunstprijs in 2019, and was among the artists shortlisted for the 2015 Taxi Art Award.


Images courtesy of Neo Matloga and STEVENSON gallery
© Neo Matloga

Baratani, 2022. DÉJÀ VU, Neo Matloga

Madizi, 2022. DÉJÀ VU, Neo Matloga

Bošegogare, 2022. DÉJÀ VU, Neo Matloga

‘ke tlao rekela sefofane’, 2022. DÉJÀ VU, Neo Matloga

Mmino, 2022. DÉJÀ VU, Neo Matloga

Khemistri, 2022. DÉJÀ VU, Neo Matloga

Tepen, 2022. DÉJÀ VU, Neo Matloga

Madireng, 2022. DÉJÀ VU, Neo Matloga — Installation view at STEVENSON, Cape Town

Vinolia, 2022. DÉJÀ VU, Neo Matloga

Tladimolongwana, 2022. DÉJÀ VU, Neo Matloga — Installation view at STEVENSON, Cape Town