Oscillating between abstraction and figuration, Misheck Masamvu’s works allow him to address the past while searching for a way of being in the world. His layered painted surfaces and brushstrokes, which are almost visceral, exist as remnants of the physical act of painting giving the sense that multiple temporalities have been included in one picture plane. Beneath the surface of a painted image, an infinity of others exist. Through abstraction, Masamvu’s figures appear in the midst of metamorphosis, absorbed by teeming landscapes.
Masamvu created these paintings during the global lockdowns. Forced immobility created internal conflicts which are expressed in the works. The canvasses appear to convulse, as if caught in the act of mutation. This act of synchronous change and entanglement is evident through the extensive use of line and weaving together of brilliant colour. The result is images that are not immediately apparent, rather cloaked in layers of camouflage that invite the viewer to drum out images in their own mind. The lack of exacting definition from Masamvu’s expressive mark making establishes an honest conversation between the artist and the viewer, an invitation to experience his shifting visual lexicon, and a prompt to delve into Masamvu’s own personal layers of history. Collectively, this pushes the viewer to become conscious of their own conflicts.
Misheck Masamvu (b. 1980, Mutare, Zimbabwe) explores and comments on the socio-political setting of post-independence Zimbabwe, and draws attention to the impact of economic policies that sustain political mayhem. Masamvu raises questions and ideas around the state of ‘being’ and the preservation of dignity. His practice encompasses drawing, painting and sculpture. Masamvu studied at Atelier Delta and Kunste Akademie in Munich, where he initially specialised in the realist style, and later developed a more avant-garde expressionist mode of representation with dramatic and graphic brushstrokes. His work deliberately uses this expressionist depiction, in conjunction with controversial subject matter, to push his audience to levels of visceral discomfort with the purpose of accurately capturing the plight, political turmoil and concerns of his Zimbabwean subjects and their experiences. His works serve as a reminder that the artist is constantly socially-engaged and is tasked with being a voice to give shape and form to a humane sociological topography. In 2020, Masamvu took part in the 22nd Biennale of Sydney. Masamvu’s work has been well-received and exhibited in numerous shows including Armory Show 2018, Art Basel 2018, Basel Miami Beach 2017, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair New York 2016, São Paulo Biennale 2016, and the Venice Biennale, Zimbabwe Pavillion 2011.