The Stories In-Between – Exhibition

Artyli is excited to invite you to join us for live jazz, delicious snacks, and a glass of wine to celebrate the opening of our latest exhibition entitled The Stories In-Between, which showcases the artwork of artists Andrew Ntshabele and Toni-Ann Ballenden. Included in this exhibition is a new selection of sculptures by the world-renowned sculptor, Anton Smit.  We are honored that the exhibition will be opened by the well-known artist and academic, Gordon Froud, who is the Head of Visual Arts at the University of Johannesburg.

The artworks in this exhibition, are a dynamic combination due to their stylistic differences, which when exhibited together arrest one’s attention through engaging aesthetics and authentic storytelling. Andrew Ntshabele works with figurative imagery while Toni-Ann Ballenden’s works are deconstructed abstract artworks. For both artists their artwork is a means to narrate their personal stories. Ballenden states that “my art is a diary of my life’s experiences” while Ntshabele’s work is about creating a new story, a way of referencing stories of the past and finding peace in the present.

While Ntshabele’s works encourage the viewer to feel that they are included in the world of the people he has painted because of the scale of the figures. His figures are turned away from the viewer to face the background which allows the viewer to become another person in the composition engaging with the collage backgrounds. These curious backgrounds that Ntshabele has become known for, consist of a variety of interesting found documents – often from a bygone era.  Ntshabele states that “I feel as if the people I am painting are engaging with the background as much as the viewer is engaging with the artwork”. Ballenden’s work engages the viewer in quite a different way because it consists of many layers and complex details. The viewer is drawn into the intricate patterns and marks of the work, becoming lost in a microcosmic world, almost like having a bird’s eye view of a city.

Ntshabele’s works consist of large figurative paintings on a collaged background. He says that the process for making the works is spontaneous, the background collages are selected from a collection of original documents which include historical and contemporary newspapers, old original letters, postcards and stamps, pages from old books, and vintage musical scores. For each work a distinct feeling is evoked through Ntshabele’s choice of documents. He finds ways of making the different documents ‘talk’ to each other, for example juxtaposing world history with South African history or limiting the choice of images to something like musical references – a process that is usually unplanned. Ntshabele states “for me the collage is an artwork within itself” but it is not the final story as Ntshabele will create another layer of meaning by adding figures. The viewer is then invited to construct their own story by finding the links between the figures and the collaged background. Ntshabele sees his works as a form of therapy, stating that “when I feel that I have done enough works that my soul is happy, I then rest. Art is more of a spiritual process to me. It is a calling”.

Ballenden’s works are also collages, they are layered works made from her previous works (often her works that she has felt were unresolved). This process grew out of Ballenden`s inner frustration with her own creations, particularly when felt that her art was not good enough and so she destroyed it − “I felt uncomfortable at my potential behavior of the violent destruction of my work … and this led me to gently talk to myself … to find a constructive way to direct my self-doubt”. Ballenden’s original figurative works were destroyed and reworked into the abstract pieces that she now creates. This move into abstract work has been cathartic because it has enabled her to work through issues of self-doubt. Her most recent work was made as a process of closure while dealing with the personal loss of the death of her son. “…. It was impossibly hard to be creative … So, l told myself to just join cut-up pieces from unresolved work …. I would join pieces and then obsessively cut them up again and again.” The reworking of these artworks, speak to pain becoming beauty.


The artwork in this exhibition is layered with stories and meanings. When we build our own story into the artist’s story it leads to a journey of thought. When meaning becomes integrated with visual aesthetics it opens the opportunity for reflection and individual interpretation.

Join us for a vibrant afternoon on the 4th of June at 3pm to view and enjoy this dynamic exhibition and to invest in an artwork that you love. Artyli Gallery is based in Nelson Mandela Square on the lower level, directly opposite the escalators to the Michelangelo

Artwork Available

Andrew Ntshabele

Toni Ann Ballenden

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