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 inner roots. For Muchawaya, his art serves as a safe space, a home he reverts to.
With its first solo exhibition, Duende Art Projects proudly presents a selection of new paintings by Mostaff Muchawaya (b. 1981), one of Zimbabwe’s leading contemporary artists. “Pathfinder” is his first solo show in Europe. The artist is celebrated for his multi-layered landscapes and portraits of loved ones drawn from memories of his upbringing in the mountainous Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Muchawaya’s paintings represent an association of distant memories, a dream-like flash of persons and places that shape an impression of half-remembered recollections. As with memories, the works encompass all embellishments and subjectivities layered on top of one another. His unsettling, faceless portraits make way for recognition, and leave room for the viewers to insert their own narrative and memories. 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 inner roots. For Muchawaya, his art serves as a safe space, a home he reverts to.
Mostaff Muchawaya’s energetic signature style involves the application and erasure of multiple layers of vividly colored paint. A process with which he mirrors the natural process of remembering and forgetting. Once dry, each generous application of paint is partly scraped from the canvas, thereby revealing the layers underneath. This scraping technique produces an aged effect reflecting the passage of time. Household cleaning agents and paint chips from derelict walls are applied to the canvas to give the impression of erosion. Waste from the artist’s studio floors finds its way onto the painting; the DNA of Muchawaya’s atelier hence interconnects all his paintings. Paint chips from other works are added to the richly textured surface. Each new piece is thus part of an old one, creating a very personal sense of continuity throughout the oeuvre. Muchawaya’s vibrant paintings with their deep and intense colors kindle duende moments and strike a universal chord as they explore the materialization of remembering.
Muchawaya’s cycle of application and eradication continues until each portrait reflects the shifting and uncontrollable nature of memory itself, where the processes of remembering and forgetting converge to form abstract impressions of the central women in his life. Once finished, the portraits remind of a haunting by places, by people and by what used to be or could have been. After all, art, in a sense, is life brought to a standstill, rescued from time and oblivion. With intense expression, Muchawaya traces his roots in an energetic style, linking the past with the present as a ‘pathfinder’. His captivating paintings place him at the forefront of contemporary African art as one of its most authentic and unique voices.
Born 1981 in Nyazura, Manicaland, Mostaff Muchawaya works in Harare, Zimbabwe. A 2003 graduate of Zimbabwe’s National Gallery School of Visual Art and Design, he joined the artist’s collective Village Unhu art studio in 2012 when it was run by Misheck Masamvu, Georgina Maxim and Gareth Nyandoro. Muchawaya presented his first solo exhibition in South Africa “Memory/Ndangariro” at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town in 2017. This exhibition concluded his 2017 residency at Greatmore Studios in Woodstock, South Africa. Earlier solo exhibitions include his debut show, titled “My Entire People and Place”s, in association with Village Unhu and Alliance Française at the Old Mutual Theatre in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2013. In 2018, Muchawaya was included in the exhibition “Five Bhobh – Painting at the End of an Era”, curated by Tandazani Dhlakama and featuring twenty-nine artists from Zimbabwe, at the Zeitz MOCAA. The artist had a second solo exhibition at SMAC Gallery in 2018 (“Zviso Zvangu - My Faces”) and participated at the 22nd Sydney Biennale in 2020. In 2022, Muchawaya was part of Duende Art Projects’ group exhibition “Unsettled”, and also had works shown at Osart Art Gallery in Milan and Tiwani Gallery in London.