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b. 1980, Zimbabwe

Misheck Masamvu Biography

Zimbabwean artist Misheck Masamvu creates paintings, sculptures, and drawings that flow between an individual and communal voice to tell stories deeply rooted in the context of contemporary Zimbabwe. In a political practice characterised by bold, loose brushstrokes and vivid colours, the artist leans into discomfort as a tool with which to provoke the viewer.

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Originally a realist painter, Masamvu slowly gravitated towards an approach to figuration more reminiscent of Abstract Expressionism. In one interview, he describes oil painting as 'playing in the mud mixed with tears and your sweat.' This emotive, energetic approach to painting is palpable in his vibrant canvases and yet simultaneously belies a sense of conflict and ambivalence. In layer upon layer of paint, the artist uses the confident gestural strokes of Abstract Expressionism alongside figurative elements to create a nuanced portrait of contemporary Zimbabwean life; a portrait that is both a critical analysis of the nation's flaws and a passionate love letter to his home and community.

Masamvu's practice is preoccupied with the socio-political environment of post-independence Zimbabwe. Zombie President (2017)— one of a series of president-themed paintings— satirically portrays the eroding effects of greed and despotism. Using art as a form of activism, the artist looks to comment on the current political landscape, and in doing so, empower his fellow Zimbabweans towards a better future.

To best reflect this uncomfortable political climate, Masamvu's paintings invite the viewer into feelings of discomfort. In one interview, the artist compares a painting to a sunset, remarking that a sunset is more beautiful with clouds. In Thigh Lock (2013), the possibility of sex and violence merge to create a layered narrative in which it is not known if the outcome is pleasure or pain. In Gift from John the Baptist (2017), the famous image of John the Baptist's head on a platter is complicated by a body still attached underneath the platter. In Knuckle Bones (2018), the artist uses colours in a range of pastel shades to evoke the youthful atmosphere of the childhood game, and yet there is also a sense that something sinister lurks beneath. By creating an unstable narrative that often verges on the grotesque, the artist captures the viewer's attention with a more sustained gaze.

Though best known for his paintings, the distinctive tone of Masamvu's sculptures adds another layer of complexity to his practice. While his canvases are dynamic worlds of colour, the sculptures are more subdued and minimalist. The stained wood carving Misheck we miss you love from dead mother and twin sister (2017) is shaped like a flat, elongated 'H', and is painted black except for three white cuffs. When installed it leans against the wall, standing around human height. Though the piece itself does not reveal as much as some of the artist's paintings, the title hints at a much deeper story, lending the sculpture a similar narrative energy to the paintings.

Masamvu studied at Atelier Delta and Munich's Kunstakademie. He represented Zimbabwe in the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, and has participated in a range of other prestigious exhibitions and events both locally and internationally.

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2019


Misheck Masamvu Featured Artworks

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Perking by Misheck Masamvu contemporary artwork
Misheck MasamvuPerking, 2020Pencil on paper
41.9 x 29.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Holes in the ceiling by Misheck Masamvu contemporary artwork
Misheck MasamvuHoles in the ceiling, 2020Pencil on paper
41.9 x 29.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Inglorious chambers by Misheck Masamvu contemporary artwork
Misheck MasamvuInglorious chambers, 2020Pencil on paper
49.1 x 29.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Pre-emptive by Misheck Masamvu contemporary artwork
Misheck MasamvuPre-emptive, 2020Pencil on paper
49.1 x 29.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Fenced out by Misheck Masamvu contemporary artwork
Misheck MasamvuFenced out, 2020Pencil on paper
41.9 x 29.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
False equivalency by Misheck Masamvu contemporary artwork
Misheck MasamvuFalse equivalency, 2020Pencil on paper
41.9 x 29.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Bundled histories by Misheck Masamvu contemporary artwork
Misheck MasamvuBundled histories, 2020Pencil on paper
41.9 x 29.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Silo by Misheck Masamvu contemporary artwork
Misheck MasamvuSilo, 2020Pencil on paper
41.9 x 29.6 cm
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery

Misheck Masamvu Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Everything fits to our daily needs at Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg
Open Now
23 January–24 March 2021 Group Exhibition Everything fits to our daily needs Goodman GalleryJohannesburg
Contemporary art exhibition, Misheck Masamvu, Talk to me while I'm eating at Goodman Gallery, London
Closing Soon
16 January–27 February 2021 Misheck Masamvu Talk to me while I'm eating Goodman GalleryLondon
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Did you ever think there would come a time? at Goodman Gallery, Cape Town
Closed
19 December 2020–20 February 2021 Group Exhibition Did you ever think there would come a time? Goodman GalleryCape Town

Misheck Masamvu Represented By

Goodman Gallery contemporary art gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, Cape Town, London

Misheck Masamvu In Related Press

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‘STILL STILL:’ In Conversation with Misheck Masamvu Related Press ‘STILL STILL:’ In Conversation with Misheck Masamvu

ART AFRICA: So let's start from the beginning. Please tell us a bit about your childhood? Were you an only child? Misheck Masamvu: No, I was born in a family of what was meant to be six siblings, six children, but then my twin died. So there were five that survived. I'm the only boy. I grew up in a family with girls. It wasn't easy, as I was...

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Carnivorous Politics, Defiant Bodies: Harare Painting in Turbulent Times Related Press Carnivorous Politics, Defiant Bodies: Harare Painting in Turbulent Times 26 May 2018, Frieze

Over the past two decades, Zimbabwe, a largely agrarian southern African country of 17 million inhabitants, has been buffeted by seemingly endless troubles. The carnivorous politics at the centre of these problems are hard to overlook – particularly in appraisals of art from this landlocked country – but are also easily overstated. Despite the...

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South African art shines at the Armory Show Related Press South African art shines at the Armory Show 9 March 2018, The Art Newspaper

Two years after the Armory Show's Focus section offered a cross section of African galleries (the geographic frame was abandoned thereafter), dealers and young artists from South Africa, already in the spotlight with the opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, have made a particularly strong showing at this year's fair (8-11...

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South Africa’s hottest artists at 1:54 New York this week Related Press South Africa’s hottest artists at 1:54 New York this week 5 May 2016, The South African

Aida Muluneh: A critically acclaimed photographer, Aida Muluneh's work is firmly embedded in the essences of identity, memory, relationships and emotion. Having lived in Ethiopia, Yemen, England and Cyprus as a child, Muluneh temporarily settled in Canada in 1985, before taking up study at Howard University in Washington, the US in 2000, where she...

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