UTA Artist Space is pleased to present Ivumba lobthongo Obumnandi (The Smell of Sweet Sleep), a virtual exhibition featuring works by emerging South African artist Thando Salman.
Ivumba lobthongo Obumnandi (The Smell of Sweet Sleep) represents a new dimension in the artist’s practice, prompted by Xhosa folklore his grandmother shared with him as a child. Shadowy, dark figures can be seen throughout the works in the exhibition, which are a reference to “wandering souls” that roam the countryside if the dead are not properly put to rest. If the proper burial rites are not observed, the folktale inspiring this body of work posits that human souls are barred entry to the kingdom of the dead. Unable to join the ancestors, these souls remain on Earth to wander in search of a human body to “possess” for another attempt at peace in the afterlife.
Although the story may have originally been shared among Xhosa communities as a warning against straying out into the night alone,
Salman has reimagined it in the context of his creative practice. The artist seduces the viewer with his bright color palettes and dynamic compositions, similar to the poisonous (in the case of the Sacred Datura) or rancid-smelling (in the case of the Corpse Flower) flora he depicts in his paintings. After being drawn in by the beauty, an ominous energy begins to reveal itself in the mysteries figures, stoic facial expressions of the subjects, and nighttime skies.
On January 3, 2024, Thando Salman and Kayla Gaskin, Gallery Coordinator at UTA Artist Space Atlanta, conducted an audio interview to discuss insights into the artist’s latest body of work— selections from this discussion can be heard by clicking the microphone icon next to the works.