Patrons give thumbs up to FFG exhibition

In the company of her friend Anita Marley, Chipochangu Dzimano who is in her 30s is a designer of ethnic fashion earrings and confessed lover of visual art.

FIRST Floor Gallery in Harare last week hosted a group show titled Paper Weight billed as exhibition opening and end of year party as the curtain comes down on 2023 in a few days to come.

The show featured seven artists, Mavis Tauzeni, Simon Back, Miriro Mwandiambira, Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude, Richard Butler Bowdon, Anne Zanele Mutema, and Helen Teede displaying works on paper.

Some fans offered to share their personal responses to the artworks.

In the company of her friend Anita Marley, Chipochangu Dzimano who is in her 30s is a designer of ethnic fashion earrings and confessed lover of visual art.

Standing before a watercolour and book pages on Fabriano by Teede, Dzimano said she fell in love with the colour.

She was also drawn to the redacted page of text collaged onto the painting and became curious to discover what book it was from.

Dzimano observed that in some of the work Teede had obscured the text, but the artist was not consistent because in other pieces she allowed the text to be subtly visible and readable. Such an observation comes from close inspection of the artwork, which is often the reason why artists create small works that draw the viewer in.

From a distance all redacted text in the artworks is unreadable. After noting the difference Dzimano proposed that the change reflects the artist’s oscillation between hiding herself and wanting to be seen. It is a plausible interpretation.

Pleased with her discovery Dzimano pointed out how she was able to decipher the words “Always Glad, Always.

“I was feeling sad, but when I read it my spirits were lifted,” she said.

As an avid online follower of the artist, Dzimano might be counting herself lucky that she finally got an opportunity to experience Teede’s work in person.

“I have read about her and seen her artworks, but never attended her show, this is my first time,” she said with excitement.

Dzimano also expressed appreciation for artworks by Tauzeni, whom she confessed to look up to as an idol representing female empowerment in the visual arts.

Gushing over several pieces by Tauzeni, she breathlessly exclaimed: “She speaks to my soul.”

Another happy patron was Tadiwanashe Mhinda, who is in his early 20s and writes poetry. He was unaccompanied because when he found out about the exhibition it was too late to get his friends to come along. But there is no time for him to feel lonely in the gallery. Conversations with strangers come easy, as there are plenty of icebreakers in the form of interesting artworks.

From the pleased expression on his face, it looks more like his friends were missing out rather than being missed.

One of Mhinda’s favourite pieces in the show was Nyaude’s Breaks in The Mould Part 7 an oil and collage on Fabriano.

Coming from a literary background the young poet found affinity with the text embedded in the work, which inspires him to look at the artwork from a historical perspective.

For him, Nyaude’s abstraction of the human figure has the effect of revealing things that are usually overlooked and he calls it “representing authenticity”.

 Drawing a lesson from Nyaude, Mhinda feels that it is not the appearance of perfection that gives historical figures their greatness but embracing their flaws.

While others are mesmerised by the aesthetics, Mhinda is obsessed by decoding the message being conveyed by the artwork.

“What I like about visual art is that there are a lot of interpretations,” he said.

Visitors to an exhibition find different entry points in their appreciation of artwork on display. While both Dzimano and Mhinda are drawn by the textual element in their favoured pieces, they do so for different reasons.

Mhinda finds paradox and contradiction accentuated by the symbolic representation of a distorted human figure in Nyaude’s work.

On the other hand, Dzimano reads the text accompanying Teede’s work as a caption referencing sentiment reflected in the texture and palette of Teede’s figurative painting.

Because there is no right or wrong interpretation, diversity of opinion influenced by different social and professional backgrounds make for great conversations in the gallery space.

First Floor Gallery was a prime spot for visual art in 2023, attracting people of different races, age groups, and backgrounds.


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