Kissing Studies: Motlhoki Nono in the Workshop

 How do we capture something as abstract and intimate as love? This perennial question, at the heart of human existence, has become the guiding force behind young visual artist, Motlhoki Nono’s practice.  

In an ever-evolving landscape of contemporary art, Motlhoki Nono stands as a notable rising figure, having recently been honored with the prestigious Ernest Cole Award in 2023, becoming the first woman to do so. In July of the same year, Motlhoki began collaborating with David Krut Projects, embarking on a series of experimental projects, laying the groundwork for her solo exhibition, “Kissing Studies,” set to unveil its narratives on love in just a month’s time. Born in Mabopane, Pretoria, in 1998, Motlhoki has a particular focus on exploring the complexities of Black love through the lenses of decoloniality and sociology. 

'A Lover's Impression', 2023. Monotype. 53.6 x 35.2 cm.
'Kissing Study - 02', 2023. Monotype with hand painting. 53.6 x 35.2 cm.

 Motlhoki was first introduced to David Krut Projects in 2021, when she applied for and received a spot in the African Leipzig International Art Programme, which she completed in 2022. When she returned to the Workshop, she completed a series of experimental monotypes and unique etchings using lipstick and kissing to create the marks.

The artist worked with collaborative printmaker Sbongiseni Khulu,  who guided the artist in terms of what printmaking techniques could further develop the ideas she had begun fleshing out in the body of work that was to be presented in her solo exhibition as part of the Ernest Cole Award. These works being the intitial photographs the artist had captured to begin exploring this subject, were used as a starting point in the development of the print works.  

The artists photographs, that were created by pressing the face up against the scanner.

The picture above shows the works of the artist’s process of capturing the ‘moment’ of a kiss by pressing the face against a scanner to create a photograph. This method was initially translated into the traditional printmaking technique of the monotype. In this process the artist was able to apply the same mechanism of capturing the kiss while also creating an image that has a unique artistic impression and style that could only be achieved through the monotype process.

The oil-based monotype became the starting point of experimentation, progressively expanding into the  pronto lithography and softground etching. Softground  etching  emerged as the most effective medium for her exploration of love, through the impression of a kiss, as this medium captures the fine details of all textures. 

Various stages of the experimentation process, exploring the possibilities and limitations of each printmaking medium.

Motlhoki went on to collaborate with others in the David Krut Workshop (DKW), inviting them to imprint a kiss onto the softground of the etching plate. The result is a collection that offers a tangible and interactive portrayal of the essence of love.

As you can see below, collaborators from the DKW included David Krut, Kim-Lee Loggenberg-Tim and Siphiwe Ncube. 

David Krut kissing the etching plate in the David Krut Workshop.
The final image - an impression of David's kiss!
'Nono', 2023. Softground etching. 53.6 x 35.2 cm.
'Siphiwe', 2023. Softground etching. 53.6 x 35.2 cm
'Kim', 2023. Softground etching. 53.6 x 35.2 cm

Motlhoki undertakes the responsibility of portraying her subjects as active agents and central protagonists within romantic narratives. Each print represents an intimate portrait and contribution towards an archive of black romantic representations. 

Motlhoki’s exploration of love extends beyond the confines of traditional methods. Utilising experimental printmaking, she delves into the politics of intimacy and romantic love. Her work not only contributes to the discourse on decoloniality but also documents the intricate complexities of Black love, framing it within the broader intersections of race, class, and gender. 

Kissing Studies by Motlhoki Nono – Opening on the 14th of February 2024


The exhibition, to be held Valentine’s Day, will involve a performance element whereby Motlhoki will invite selected members of her audience to contribute a kiss to her black romantic archive.

Please join us on Wednesday, 14th of February 2024 from 4 to 6 pm at David Krut Projects, 151 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood. 

To request an advanced catalogue of to find out more please contact:

[email protected] 

+27 (0)11 880 4242 

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