Naledi Tshegofatso Modupi, a contemporary illustrator and visual artist, has gained recognition for her versatile approach to art. She seamlessly navigates between digital art and traditional mediums, showcasing her skill and expertise. Her work revolves around portraiture, with a distinctive style that can be described as reductive or semi-abstract.
Modupi’s aim is to convey individuality and personality in her subjects using basic shapes and colours. Her art is heavily influenced by the beauty of blackness and the characteristics associated with black people. Through her work, she strives to inspire confidence and ignite hope in those who can relate to her pieces. She sees her art as a reflection of the diverse faces around her, incorporating a vibrant array of colours, shapes, and patterns. The three pillars that inform her artistry are ‘black is beauty,’ ‘black is color,’ and ‘black is bold.’
As a darker-skinned black woman, Naledi uses her identity and experiences as the central theme in her work. She explores this theme to initiate meaningful conversations about black people, particularly black women, in society. Her art emphasizes and celebrates their unique and empowering stories.
Naledi has a deep fascination with faces, believing that they hold the key to a person’s story. She believes that by studying someone’s features, you can learn a great deal about them. This is why she focuses solely on painting portraits, aiming to capture the essence of her subjects and share their stories with the world.
She immerses herself in creating case studies and stories inspired by the faces she encounters. Modupi is captivated by photographers who capture stunning portraits, and she strives to evoke the same effect through her art by using vibrant colours and bold shapes to influence viewers’ perspectives.
Vulnerability plays a significant role in Modupi’s art. She sees it as an act of courage, especially in a world that often demands concealment and strength in the face of distress. For Naledi, vulnerability is inseparable from self-expression. She believes that by demonstrating vulnerability, she can use the experience of being perceived and known as a way to grow as an artist.
Opening herself up to vulnerability has given her work deeper meaning, both for others and herself. Some pieces hold such personal significance that she cannot part with them. Vulnerability has become a gateway to a whole new world within her art.
Modupi seamlessly transitions between digital media and traditional methods, making her an artist of the future while honouring the thematic concerns of the past. Digital illustrating has opened up new possibilities for her, especially during the lockdown in 2020 when she couldn’t explore other mediums or access materials.
She fell in love with the world of digital illustrating, appreciating the freedom and accessibility it offered. Her digital style features soft linework and warm tones, often juxtaposed against the rich blackness of her figures. This exemplifies the compelling future of digital art in South Africa.