Artist Misheck Masamvu uses a 'coping mechanism' to process history on canvas
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Cape Town – For his third solo exhibition at the Goodman Gallery, Misheck Masamvu's Hata is a new series of paintings and drawings that examines a cushion and a coping mechanism for burdens, including emotions.
“Hata” commonly refers to a cushion used to soften the load atop one’s head.
For his exhibition, which opened at the gallery in Cape Town at the weekend, Masamvu uses painting as a hata-like device for processing history.
The position relies on thinking of history as an opportunity for further education and growth.
Visually, hata transforms into “hakata”, a contraption to portray a probable outcome, or becomes a grammar of expressive brushwork, chaotic compositions, and perpetually altered or mutated figures often depicted between states of animal and human.
“In Hata, it’s a celebration and a violent dance. It’s not something you’re giving without risking yourself.
‘‘It’s how you’re reaching out to someone in a tragic moment, but when you’re in that moment of rescue you’re risking your life.
‘‘That point of sacrifice is what I’m trying to show.
‘‘As much as we are fragile, through this fragility there’s an element where we can become much stronger and give or harvest more through that sacrifice,” Masamvu said.
In his paintings, Masamvu attempts to “collect the moments of that struggle, awareness or realisation”, condensing expressions into images which reference the “weight, the emotion of the spiritual connection, or intellectual space”.
Masamvu’s use of figuration further helps the artist “harvest hidden emotions coming from the subconscious”.
The effect allows viewers to emotionally connect to Masamvu’s work through their own experience, the gallery said.
Drawing on personal tragedies, Masamvu looks at how he overcame these challenges in his life by turning to lessons gained from history.
Masamvu describes his process as an “emotional dance”, which carries a message. Part of Zimbabwe’s “born-free generation”, Masamvu explores and comments on the socio-political setting of post-independent Zimbabwe, and raises questions and ideas around the state of “being” and preservation of dignity.
His practice encompasses drawing, painting and sculpture.
The exhibition is accompanied by a monograph, also titled Hata, edited by curator Gabi Ngcobo.
The publication was launched alongside the opening of the exhibition at the weekend and will run at the Goodman Gallery in Cape Town until August 31.