Portia Zvavahera  | Elle Decoration South Africa
TauyaNaye,2013,Oil based printing ink on paper, 115x150cm

FNB and Artlogic are proud to announce Portia Zvavahera as the 2014 FNB Art Prize Winner.

Portia Zvavahera is an exceptional talent. Hailing from Juru, Zimbabwe and based in Harare, Zvavahera masterfully combines a vivid sense of colour, textile-like printed patterns and almost crude lines in her expressionist paintings. Her imagery is rooted in religious narratives from both the Old Testament and contemporary Pentecostal sects in Zimbabwe, suffusing everyday themes with a heightened sense of otherworldliness.

Portia Zvavahera  | Elle Decoration South Africa
Portia Zvavahera at the opening of her show, Wayfinding, at Stevenson, Johannesburg, July 2014
Portia Zvavahera  | Elle Decoration South Africa
Ndokumbirawo Ishe, 2014, Oil-based printing ink on paper, 98 x 150cm

Zvavahera, who represented Zimbabwe at the Venice Biennale in 2013, received the Prize for a body of paintings, which continue her deeply personal concerns with experiences of marriage, childbirth and parental love.

Why did you become an artist?
I had a passion for drawing when I was in school. I loved art more than any other subject. I didn’t know that I could do it as a career. When I discovered the school of art, I knew it was what I wanted to do.

Who have you been most inspired by in your career?
I’m most inspired by Jean- Michel Basquiat and Gustav Klimt. I loved the pattern and use of organic circles that Klimpt used.

What is the significance of your dreams in the work you make?
I’m mostly inspired by my dreams. When I have a dream, a nightmare or something, I usually forget it so I have to write it down and the dream itself becomes my personal diary. Documenting them becomes a history making process. It is also sort of a healing process, when I translate what I’ve written on paper with paint on canvas.

How do you hope your work will speak to your audience?
It is a platform for people to engage with the healing process. It is always interesting to see how people relate on a personal level to the work. One person after seeing one of my paintings (Ndakavhumbamira, 2014 see:http://www.stevenson.info/exhibitions/zvavahera/ndakavhumbamira.html) spoke of how the painting moved him. He was away from his family and the painting made him feel closer, like he was holding them.

What does the medium of painting add to your process?
I don’t really like writing about my dreams. I prefer to transfer the image from my dreams into a painting. I see colour everywhere, I love colour and paint more than other media. I feel colour translates best through paint.

What’s next for you?
I’m constantly searching. I’ll never stop searching for new ideas. What comes next is a product of that ongoing search.

The FNB Art Prize was launched in 2011. All galleries participating in the Fair are given the opportunity to nominate one of their artists for consideration to our panel of judges. The winning artist receives a cash prize as well as the opportunity to showcase their work in a dedicated space at the FNB Joburg Art Fair.

Interview first published here.