SEMINAL Zimbabwean sculptor, Tapfuma Gutsa, who began displaying his works as a solo artist in the United Kingdom during the first week of March, has been well-received, Independent Xtra has gathered.
Reports coming from October Gallery
in London say the artist has managed to make his presence felt in the competitive European market where he is billed to showcase his pieces up to April1.
Gutsa, who keeps a low profile, is both an artist and workshop leader who has transformed art practice in Zimbabwe and beyond.
In his first solo UK exhibition, the dexterous sculpture explores the physical and metaphorical possibilities of a range of natural materials, from granite and oak, to horn, egg shell, bone and clay.
Some of his acclaimed works on display include The Miracle of Moses and Tribute to Sango, both of which confirm his status as a versatile craftsman thriving on the use of gadgets which he manages to manipulate and give meaning.
Gutsa explains: “Objects such as buffalo horns are used by medicine men to empower and strengthen the warrior before battle. In this sense, the shaman creates an object that can acquire meaning and influence people, just as an AK47 or a Bible can wield influence and power. I’m therefore interested in creating ‘gadgets of influence’, enigmatic forms that are intrinsically functional, in the sense that medicines or weapons are functional. It is a kind of alchemy.” The Miracle of Moses is a stone that symbolises the shape of an embryonic African continent.
The horns of kudu and buffalo represent Moses’ staff breaking open the stone. Water is the flood that abets breaking at the birth of the continent. Tribute to Sango, on the other hand, is a tribute to one of Gutsa’s friends by the same name. It is also a name given to the Yoruba god of war.
In Yoruba mythodology, Sango is perhaps the most popular deity. He is a sky father, god of thunder and ancestor of the Yoruba.
Gutsa’s work narrates stories of voyages, migrations, life-cycles, battles and power.
He studied art at the Dreifontein Mission School in Mvuma, and later became the recipient of a British Council award.
With the scholarship he studied for three years at the City and Guilds School of Art in London between 1982-1985, where he was awarded a diploma in sculpture.
After returning to Zimbabwe in 1988, he organised the first of a series of Pachipamwe Workshops, under the Triangle arts model, bringing together young and well-established artists to explore new directions for Zimbabwean art.
He went on to establish the Surprise studios in 1997, providing studio space for a generation of Zimbabwean artists.
In 1990, his work was included in Grace Stanislaus’ seminal exhibition African Artists: Changing Traditions at the Studio Museum, Harlem, USA.
He has since participated in numerous international exhibitions, workshops and residency programmes and currently lives and works in Vienna, Austria.
Sculpture, a rich form of aesthetic expression in which hard or plastic materials are worked either by carving, moulding, or welding into three-dimensional art objects, is one artistic genre where Zimbabweans have excelled.
Zimbabwean stone sculptures are renowned for their originality and creative outlook all over the world.
An enormous variety of media may be used, including clay, wax, stone, metal, fabric, wood, plaster, rubber and random “found” objects. Materials may be carved, modelled, moulded, cast, wrought, welded, sewn, assembled, or otherwise shaped and combined.
Sculpture has been a powerful means of human expression since prehistoric times.