Dr. Esther Mahlangu.

"The Breath of Calligraphy"

21.04.2023 - 02.06.2023
05.06.2023 - 30.06.2023

Galerie 75 Faubourg and Galerie Enrico Navarra present the exhibition The Breath of Calligraphy of South African artist Dr. Esther Mahlangu, showcasing a selection of acrylics on canvas created between 2010 and 2022. These works refer to the painter’s Ndebele heritage and celebrate “the contemplation of space and colour, both abundant and accented: Africa’s calligraphy. […] She [Mahlangu] shares with us a distinctly clear tale of a lifetime, translated geometrically and colourfully into the language of art.” (Ruzy Rusike, exhibitionleaflet)

In the Ndebele community, the tradition of decorative mural painting is an age-old art reserved for women, with techniques passed down from mother to daughter, and done on the facades of houses during ritual ceremonies. From an early age, Esther Mahlangu learned to make pigments, to prepare the surface to be painted and to create decorative compositions mixing traditional geometric figures and invented motifs.

Dr. Mahlangu revolutionized this traditional art using new techniques. She is the first to transfer this painting practice to canvases and other contemporary mediums and has replaced natural pigments with even more vivid and contrasting acrylic paints. Using a feather, she paints freehand without prior sketching, on a variety of formats and media: canvases, walls, ceramics, cars (BMW Art Car Collection, 1991), motorcycles or sneakers (Eytys, 2015).

In the 1980s, while creating an outdoor work at the Botshabelo Village Museum (Orange Province, South Africa), she met the French gallerist André Magnin, who invited her to the exhibition Les Magiciens de la Terre (1989) at the Centre Pompidou, a turning point in her career, propelling her onto the French and European scene.

After numerous exhibitions around the world, her works have joined major private collections (Larry Warsh, Jean Pigozzi, Oprah Winfrey, Usher, John Legend, David Bowie, Alicia Keys…) and public collections (Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C., Brooklyn Museum in New York, Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town…). In 2024, a retrospective will be dedicated to her work at the Iziko South African National Gallery before traveling to several prestigious museums around the world.

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with Almine Rech who will concomitantly present works by Dr. Esther Mahlangu in their Parisian showroom rue de Turenne, and a solo exhibition in their London gallery.