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Let The Waters Settle...



11.12.21 - 29.01.22

Solo Exhibition


Text by Olivia Barrell

Mongezi Ncaphayi’s visual language is abstracted but anchored in that which exists. Existing without being seen, but often in our feeling of or listening to it. ‘’I do not always know what I am connected to, but there are different ways of listening,” says the artist, both painter and saxophonist. Ncaphayi brings into colour so much of what we cannot usually say in words. Music has always been fundamental to Mongezi Ncaphayi’s practice. But his works are not a reaction to music. They are a reaction to a feeling. His approach to artmaking is full-bodied. Fully embodied. Each artwork remains as a testimony to unfurled emotion. And when the waters settle, what do we see? 

This new body of work by Ncaphayi trudges up from an emotional depth. It was born from an immensity of feeling - including pain - that flowed out coarse and heavy. It stained the paper and bled across its surface. Each work is cosmic and exploding. A landscape seeping out over the frame or perhaps a map of sorts, directionless - or even a blueprint for an internal structure. ‘Let The Waters Settle…’ brings together depictions of Ncaphayi’s own emotional landscape, previously cracked-open and now calling one word softly on its winds: healing. Standing in front of these explorations with colour and line - or are we witnessing explorations within the deepest part of the artist himself - we are reminded to feel. The multiple planes of dimension that exist within each artwork pull us in and simultaneously mirror a pulling-in towards ourselves. 

The abstraction exists as a gateway into another place. ‘Let The Waters Settle…’ is centred around landscapes and internal places. The latter subconscious and personal. A place that we arrive at after transcendence. Ncaphayi’s practice is unfiltered. A painterly freefall. The compositions are unplanned where the ink improvises and the artist responds to it. ‘’It’s a communication between the work and myself,’’ says Ncaphayi. Each element of the painting exists in reaction to the other. So much of what it means to be human for his works capture the sharpness of our human experience, often bittersweet and turbulent - yet bright and uncharted. They start with a single mark and unravel into a complexity of colour, form, and dimension. His landscapes are without gravity or boundary, still moving. Forms of movement are a fundamental part of Ncaphayi’s practice - physical, musical, and internal. His paintings are animated through it; lines converging, shapes of colour morphing, dots and dashes floating. Ncaphayi expresses himself through colour, the slow passage of time and contemplation. And perhaps when the waters settle, we glimpse a depiction of the landscapes that exist inside of ourselves. The worlds that we inhabit when we are truly alone and in response to the fury of life. Ncaphayi’s works teach us not to be afraid. 

Inky and confident. He offers so much of himself in the works - all his selves, past and present, in all their states, broken and healing. ‘Let The Waters Settle…’ speaks of transformation. And through it, we hear the poetic verse of Mary Oliver: “ … But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do– determined to save the only life you could save.’’ Mongezi Ncaphayi’s intuitive expression grew out of printmaking. His three previous solo exhibitions at SMAC Gallery illustrate a gradual leaning towards a visual language that is increasingly complex and turbulent. The landscapes have become cavernous as we see with ‘The Journey is the Destination’ (I, II, III) and the inks interact tumultuously, creating a rich dimensionality. Ncaphayi has mastered this medium and charged it, in a way that is honest and provocative, with an intensity of feeling that will engulf the viewer. Perhaps Ncaphayi’s work shows each of us how to feel. Or to look bravely into ourselves, preparing to feel the breadth of emotion that is intrinsic to being human. And in the words of poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: “let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being.’’ 

Text by Olivia Barrell

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