LOCAL artist â€œTownshipâ€ Toneley Ngwenya is to hold a solo exhibition of his oil paintings of mainly high density urban scenes at the Richard Rennie Gallery in Belgravia, Harare opening on March 4, gallery owner and culture patron Judy Ballantyne has announced.
One of five children, Tonely (pronounced Toe-Knee-Lee) was born in Highfield in 1976, growing up in Sunningdale, attending Cranborne Boys High School. Although art wasnâ€™t a subject offered to him, he so needed to paint that he would study his friendsâ€™ art lesson work, then replicate what they had done. Â
His work so impressed his friends that they urged him to register for the pending â€˜Oâ€™ Level art exam â€“â€“ which, despite the schoolâ€™s objection, he gamely did, and passed with flying colours.
Tonelyâ€™s mother, seeing how well he had done in his art exams without any training, encouraged him to pursue a career in art.
He enrolled at the BAT-sponsored School of Art at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, and for two years studied painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and dry-point printing, graduating in 1996 with a Certificate in Fine Arts.
He worked in college, and using pictures from magazines, created his first Field Worker scenes (a theme to become synonymous with his name), exhibiting this work at the Young Artistsâ€™ Exhibition at Delta Gallery in 1997. Â
His pictures all sold and he was able to buy art equipment, and so began painting, using the same format as collage and, with bast selling local artist Paul Wadeâ€™s encouragement, started painting bigger, more detailed pieces. Â
Ngwenya paints urban market scenes and rural scenes, focusing mainly on the Field Workers, whose gracefully, bowed carriage, as they gradually progress across their fields, stimulates Tonely, whose appreciation of people, shape and rich, earthy colours is absolute. Â
Tonely paints in oils, his preferred medium and is developing a new, more richly-textured style using palette knives.
He holds deep regard for the works of artists Daryl Nero and Richard Witikani, whose figure work, movement and use of colour and space has greatly influenced his style.
Tonely has held numerous solo and shared exhibitions since his first in 1997. Â
A contemplative, vital young man with wisdom beyond his years, he is a consummate artist, musician, poet and philosopher.
BY DUSTY MILLER