Mischeck Masamvu is a true visionary of the 21st century. His compilation of work expresses captivating illustrations of disordered compositions and distorted figures that depict emotions of stagnation and hope. DECO caught up with the prolific painter to discuss the powerful symbolism in his work and his paths and the vision behind this current exhibition “Still Still”.
Your paintings transmit bold, striking and emotionally raw imagery, where do you draw your inspiration from?
My daily reality is compounded by the encounter with people in search for a resolve to their predicaments – my wife says this statement is an attempt to avoid speaking directly about the harsh reality faced by many around. The reality around me can only be expressed raw, with strong colours holding the urgency of our daily struggle, to converse and look into the eyes hidden in a smashed skull.
Your past work embodies reoccurring themes of the representation of the distorted human body and mutated figures. With the upcoming “Still Still” exhibition, can we expect similar subject matter?
To mutilate a body is sometimes the option left to highlight human conditioning, to upstage the suppressive structure. To decapitate or mutate figures is a selection process of performing an autopsy on our current reality, and remaining curious to find the omitted or subdued voices. The work becomes a collection of stories spoken through a grammar embodying familiar subject matter.
You use colour typically to depict disorientation between your subjects in your work. How important is colour in your technique and narrative?
I use colour as a living logarithm, to project and evoke emotions. Colour speaks to the absence or the abundance of life, and I enjoy the conversation when it reveals itself in the painting. When colour becomes the agent of cause then the subject reclaims the conscious space.
In Zimbabwe, a highly politicised environment, how difficult is it for artists to express their political turmoil and social economic realities without outweighing the artistic notions in their work?
To be active within the political context has its own unsubscribed consequences. Still to be apolitical and record the turn of events, is a position I chose. I stick to my lane, my own experience speaks for me and for others. There is an undertone that unifies or relates to my neighbor because we are, for most of the time, swept under the carpet by the same broom.
In our latest #AfricaIssue, we celebrate African art and design. We are in an era where interest in African art and creative landscape has intensified. What do you hope for African art to inspire to the world?
I feel Africa need not worry about the worldview. The people from the continent need to speak in a language true to themselves and not continuously present themselves to fit a template subscribed to them. I certainly think the term ‘African art’ is problematic; it promotes the art practice to fit into stereotypical nuances.
You facilitate and mentor the works of peers and aspiring artists. Who has been your biggest influence and mentor and how has it transpired in your work today?
I have been lucky to meet beautiful humans, those striving to create opportunities for others. I have been exposed to genuine love and given a second chance by many who have been patient to see me try again and again.
You are mainly known for your painting and sculptures. Are you inspired by other mediums? Which ones?
I love sound, though I prefer silence. I enjoy the heart beat of the drum – it leads me back into painting where I do not paint on the canvas; rather, I enter into a dialogue with the space the image reveals of itself, like extracting the sound from the drum.
Do you have any specific processes/rituals that you follow when you’re creating?
I guess it becomes a habit rather than a ritual. I sometimes perform or indulge in physical manual work to rid my body of excessive energy, in order to dislodge my mind. It is a moment of clarity that helps me see the unknown, and your body becomes an extension of the brush.
Which upcoming artist should we look out for?
With your solo exhibition “Still Still”, what do you want to make people conscious of through your art?
I just want to invite people to my naked mind. There is no shame in having hope. Still, hope must be accompanied by a people aware that their decisions matter and life is worth celebrating regardless of your current conditioning.
“Still Still” refers to things in motion, refusing to be held hostage by the current situation. Still, to mutilate by choice, is to expand room for an elaborate participation of both the idea and its manifestation/realisation. Still still, is an embodiment and passing on of positive energy, a reminder not to succumb, but an encouragement to do better, to reach a position of self-reflection.
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Gabriella Neumbo was born and bred in the semi-arid country of Namibia but adopted by the African rainbow nation of South Africa. She has an unwavering passion for fashion, good food and travel, but it’s the adventures with her other love, photography, that would truly put you through a 1000 words.
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