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Art in Monochrome with Siphesihle Ntsungwana

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Change Of Plans (Self-Portrait)- Acrylic on Canvas

Siphesihle Ntsungwana is a fine artist who has become synonymous with monochrome paintings. Artiste Culture was fortunate to speak with Siphesihle about his introduction to art and how he found his unique style.

Siphesihle began creating art as a child by making drawings, mainly influenced by anime and television programmes like Dragon Ball Z. His teachers began to notice his talent and encouraged him to study art. After taking art as a subject in high school, he went on to study fine art.He moved from the rural town of Bizana to the more Urban city of Durban. This created a huge shift in what inspired his art. From the focus being on nature to now being exposed to television, magazines, comic books and pop culture. Current affairs and social topics continue to inspire him today with his art focusing on black icons in pop culture. Siphesihle has also been heavily influenced by the diversity in culture and perspectives found in his home country of South Africa. He believes the country is more united than ever, and they are now able to be inspired by each other's unique cultures, languages and perspectives.

Superstar Status-Acrylic on Canvas

His monochrome art style was inspired during his studies. He identified with the work of Basquiat and Sandy Skoglund which introduced him to the importance of colour . As he focused on illustration at the time, he was always working with colour gradients and colour was becoming a large focus within his work. Siphesihle noticed that not many people were making monochrome pieces and felt this could be his unique trademark. He received positive reactions following his first monochrome piece and decided to continue in this style.

His process of making a new piece begins with finding a reference which is often inspired by black representation within the arts. He proceeds to choose a colour that he will use to enhance the mood of what he is trying to portray. After planning the composition through sketching, he brings the piece to canvas. He selects his colours by looking at what different colours mean to him whether it is blue representing sadness, black and white relating to memory or red depicting danger or love. Siphesihle is able to draw meaning from these colours and use them to create his monochrome pieces. In his painting titled “Sit Tight” he uses the colour yellow which represents wealth and success, this enhances the meaning of the piece which is to be patient while waiting to achieve success.

Sit Tight- Modern Rug

He believes the discipline he gained during his studies has helped him in his success as an artist. Always working his artistic muscle, he creates tasks for himself similar to the tasks he would receive at university creating small paintings every day. These pieces become part of his visual diary, being inspired by his daily thoughts and inspirations.

Fight or Flight II-Acrylic on Canvas

As a black South African artist, he believes representation is important and that they need to be able to tell their own authentic stories. Throughout his studies, Siphesihle had learned about the European classics and the art masters. He hopes that African artists begin to gain recognition and that one day his work among other African artists will be revered in the same vein and be studied for unique styles and techniques.

“It’s very important to show the world who we are. We need to tell our story. If we portray who we are in our work they can hear our true stories and take us more seriously.”

Although he is currently enjoying painting, he may go back to his roots of illustration sometime in the future and would also like to explore ceramics. He aspires to do more solo exhibitions and start to create large-scale paintings.

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