Blessing Ngobeni (b. 1985, Tzaneen, South Africa) creates abstracted works with a range of found objects, magazine advertisements, newspaper articles, and paint on canvas. His mixed media works relate to themes of self-enrichment and the abuse of power, best understood in the context of his past. At the age of ten he moved to Johannesburg where he became involved in crime and was later arrested for armed robbery. During his six years in prison he began painting. Ngobeni’s works shed light on the often under represented members of a city’s most impoverished inhabitants while also addressing the inherent duality of the relationships that city dwellers have with their environment. People living in the city identify with music, entertainment, and fast lifestyles, but are masking the extreme challenges, like the pressures of crime, poverty, and employment, which compound and generate both the positive and negative intensity explored in Ngobeni’s work.
Ngobeni was recently named by Phaidon’s Vitamin P3 and Artspace as one of the “most important African painters working today,” alongside Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Meleko Mokgosi. Ngobeni studied at Newtown’s Artist Proof Studio. He is the winner of the Reinhold Cassirer Ward 2012, which is supported by Nadine Gordimer and includes a residency at the Bag Factory, one of Johannesburg's notable art venues. Ngobeni has exhibited in several group exhibitions, including Diepkloof Library, Johannesburg Central Library, and Museum Africa and his work was shown at AIPAD 2018. He was also a first prize and gold award winner at the Gala Ex-Offenders Awards and has exhibited in several shows throughout South Africa and the United States. His most recent exhibition in 2017 was entitled Masked Reality at CIRCA Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa.