BY NYADZOMBE NYAMPENZA
VISUAL artist Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude has opened a solo exhibition of his new works titled Gray Spaces (Munhu Chaiye) at First Floor Gallery in Harare.
The artworks blend pain and beauty in one frame to inspire both sombre reflection and festive abandon.
The new body of work has superficial similarities to Nyaudes’ previous work. The camouflage motif is there, but is overcome by brighter colours. Actors from his past works seem to have survived their afflictions and come back.
They are the boisterous characters with gaping mouths, pictured abusing themselves and violating each other in different settings.
In one painting, a character standing atop a giddy stool body slams the other in a dangerous “do not try this at home” move.
In another painting, a woman squatting on a chair chokes a skeletal head while around her, only the feet of those who may have challenged her position remain visible.
One figure is portrayed falling through the air to an uncertain end, but holds on to two bottles and flashes a defiant intoxicated grin on their ghostly face.
The liquor bottle is a recurring symbol in this body of work. It is a reminder that Zimbabweans drink to party and celebrate success, and also to mourn and drown their sorrows.
The second painting titled Munhu Chaiye is a tongue in cheek declaration of moral superiority. It is derived from Ubuntu philosophy, which ascribes human value according to character, and behaviour deemed to be humane. The title may elicit sceptical reactions such as Munhu chaiye ndiani? in response to such a bold claim for moral high ground.
The late music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi made a contribution on this topic by expressing a belief that anyone born of a woman deserves respect, “Asina kubarwa ndiani?’ Nyaude seems to take the same non-judgmental position on the colourful characters that populate his canvases.
There is beauty mixed with pain in Nyaude’s latest work.
The representation of black pain as being artistically pleasing can be a demand from the external market.
Gallerists may influence an artist to take such a direction when it drives sales. In spite of Zimbabwe’s perennial economic challenges, the publics’ daily conversations are not permanently anchored on the country’s collective misfortunes.
Most days humour and satire serve as coping mechanisms, but there are also moments of oblivion and pure joy.
Nyaude takes the viewer to that space where joy, pain, beauty and ugliness intersect. Through drawing, spray painting, and paintbrushing on canvas, he brings the audience to confront their pain while simultaneously acknowledging their joy.
Fervent discussions and glamorous photos taken in front of the artworks on the opening day may be the first testament to the exhibition’s success and Nyaude’s accomplishment.
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