The Bernier / Eliades Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Zimbabwean artist Misheck Masamvu – titled Pivot. Marking the artist’s first solo exhibition in Belgium, the body of work combines striking colour with a distinct expressionist style to establish a grammar of chaotic compositions, gestural brushwork and perpetually altered or mutated figures often depicted in states of flux or transformation. As he explains in a studio interview, produced ahead of the 5th Aichi Triennale in Japan last year, “when I get into colour, I realise that this is a deeper space, and I realise that I must travel within it… I can feel, I can hear, I cannot be stopped”.
Oscillating between abstraction and figuration, the exhibition uses the act of painting to (re)think, (re)work and (re)imagine the world and our place within it. The works featured in Pivot were executed over several months and in different parts of the globe – starting in Harare and then later Johannesburg, as well as Cape Town, before finally being completed while on residency in Brussels. They form part of the nomadic project. For Masamvu, the true self can only be found through placing oneself in the unfamiliar. In purposely becoming a foreigner, the artist can gain new perspectives and self-knowledge, adding to his understanding of the world. These new perspectives inform the work, which become markers of the search for the self. His nomadic journey and the constant power struggle between a stagnant state and the desire for a multiplicity of being results in the work appearing to convulse and change, as if it has been caught in the act of mutation.
With Pivot, rhythmic counterposed lines and layered fields of colour have become a prominent language for Masamvu to explore structures of power and how history comes to bear on the contemporary moment, but also how one can adapt to a new way of interacting with the world. Where earlier bodies of work grappled with creating the tools that could help to confront the histories of one’s past, providing a mode of existing within the present moment, these latest works make use of the transition and interplay between the past, the present and the future initiating a new way of being. For the artist, this renewed reality and perspective embraces history, acknowledging that everything that has been recorded can be understood as memory, recognising that every effect of memory influences how one interprets the world around them. As Masamvu says of his practice: “With my work, the canvas offers me a moment to live and try things out. To feel my pulse. To ask. To be scared, and deal with that fear. To be courageous and to find myself. To discover a way to heal… because a painting takes everything, and above all, it gives me the agency to be my own protagonist”.
Considered to be one of the most significant and pioneering contemporary artists from Zimbabwe, Misheck Masamvu’s (b. 1980, Mutare, Zimbabwe) work offers renewed understandings on visual culture in Africa and the decolonial project more broadly – inciting a fresh critical perspective that bears witness to the political realities, social textures and divergent voices present on the continent.
Major exhibitions include: The ‘t’ is silent, 8th Biennial of Painting, Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium (2022); Inside Out, Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Geneva, Switzerland (2022); STILL ALIVE, 5th Aichi Triennale, Aichi, Japan (2022); NIRIN, 22nd Sydney Biennale, Sydney, Australia (2020); Allied with Power: African and African Diaspora Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, USA (2020); Two Together, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa (2020); the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo (2016); Misheck Masamvu, Institut Français, Paris, France (2015); Africa 2.0 > is there a Contemporary African art?, Influx Contemporary Art, Lisbon (2010); Disputed Seats, Influx Contemporary Art, Lisbon, Portugal (2009); and 696, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare (2008)
His work is part of the collections: A4 Arts Foundation (Cape Town, South Africa); Braunsfelder Family Collection (Cologne, Germany); Uieshema Collection (Tokyo, Japan); Perez Art Museum (Miami, USA); Pigozzi Collection (Geneva, Switzerland); Taguchi Art Collection (Tokyo, Japan); Fukutake Foundation (Auckland, New Zealand); COMMA Foundation (Damme, Belgium); ANA Collection (Lagos, Nigeria); Sigg Art Foundation, Le Castellet, France; Fondation Gandur pour l’Art (Geneva, Switzerland); and Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Cape Town, South Africa).