VIBRANT, intriguing and colourful art pieces by Nhlanhla Chonco are on display at the Artisan Gallery over the next few weeks. His work encompasses traditional African subject matter and an innovative use of exciting colours.

Born in Clermont township, the artist was first encouraged by his father to pursue a career in art.

For two years, he was part of the Art Corner in Marine Parade, where he did portraits from life in chalk pastel.

Chonco also taught for three years at a school for disabled children in Umlazi. During this period, the school was awarded first prize in a competition held by the Port Shepstone Art Museum.

The school also earned second place in the 2010 World Cup School Art Competition.

Explaining his journey in art, Chonco said: “I took my first art lesson in 1987 at the Community Arts Workshop. I discovered my passion for art through depicting cartoon images as a child, trying all the time to master the proportions of characters such as Spiderman, Hulk and other well-built, muscular characters.

“I was always fascinated by colours, thus my figures come out from colour.”

Chonco is fascinated by the people of Africa and has travelled widely through reading books.

Owner of the Artisan gallery, Ingrid Smith, said that Chonco didn’t restrict himself to any specific tribe or people, but got his inspiration from ancient cultures that were so much a part of African tradition.

“Colour and form are not treated as separate entities but intermingle, resulting in a dynamic and modern interpretation, the colours flowing into each other with nuances that ebb and flow and so intrigue the eye,” she said.

“My work represents the restoration of authenticity and raw life-living of different African tribes,” Chonco said.

“It is to keep the old but in an attractive new form, but still with its genuineness restored.

“Although I’m able to produce works in other mediums such as ceramics and sculpture, I specialise in painting and drawing, particularly on a large scale.

“My ambition is to spread an understanding in our society not only to look and like, but to also understand the value of art and respect it,” he said.

In terms of his creative process, Chonco said he was inspired by “anything unusual. It makes me think deeper to create an attraction from either bad or good experiences. I abstractly mix the old and the new, thus one gets a new perspective and feeling for as long as the works are on view.”

• Nhlanhla Chonco’s art is on display at the Artisan Gallery, 344 Florida Rd, Morningside. For info, call 031 312 4364 or e-mail [email protected]