“I don’t put faces, but you can find your face. It’s all about perspective. When I look at the portraits, I see a face because sometimes I create a face and then I conceal it with paint, so I leave room for the viewer to also find their face.”
Mostaff Muchawaya (b. 1981, Zimbabwe) is one of the most innovative painters of his generation. Through the medium of paint, Muchawaya creates multi-layered landscapes and portraits of people drawn from memories of his upbringing in the mountainous Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Muchawaya’s portraits are a complex confluence of portraiture and self-portraiture, autobiography, and fiction. In his work, the artist expresses a deep connection to his memories and experiences, which are inseparable from ‘his people’ and surroundings. He continuously refers to his rural upbringing; his art serves as a safe space, a home he reverts to.
“My work is centered on portraits of my loved ones. It’s all about Nyazura where I come from, and the people and places in that area.”
While the paintings are new in their material form, to Muchawaya they are deep-rooted, remembered renderings. His portraits are a combination of memories, a dream-like flash of faces that shape an impression of a half-remembered experience. As with memories, the works encompass all embellishments and subjectivities layered on top of one another. Muchawaya’s method of eroding the surface mirrors the natural process of forgetting. His unsettling, faceless portraits make way for recognition.