Richard Mudariki : “Mubvakure” (The one who comes from afar)
Galerie Polaris, Paris, France12 Oct 2019 - 17 Nov 2019
Zimbabwean born artist, Richard Mudariki, presents his debut solo exhibition in Europe with a series of works on paper and paintings on canvas.
Mudariki (b.1985) who began his practice in Harare some 18 years ago, was a student of many established Zimbabwean artists who instructed him at an early age of fourteen years. Despite his move to Cape Town, South Africa in 2008 where he now lives and works, Mudariki remains at the forefront of Zimbabwean visual arts and that of the African continent in general.
Mudariki’s paintings speaks not only to world politics, the events and issues, but also negotiates the personal politics of his own art practice, continually defining his territory as a serious painter and crystallising his own motivations and intent. As he continues to define his own practice, Mudariki remains aware of his position as an artist from the African continent adjacent to the canon of Western history of painting. Referencing and recycling classic paintings from Western art history, Mudariki engages in a complex act of satire, critique and self-reflection. In it, he continues an ever-evolving discussion of how an artist is to engage, on both a personal and professional level, with a canon that has historically excluded and occluded artists from Africa.
Some of the paintings in the exhibition include ‘A View from the artist’s studio’ (acrylic on canvas), in which the artist assumes the role of a witness of his time. As the title informs, the scene is that of his studio, with a French window that frames the discontent of the masses in France, America and United Kingdom on leadership and policies. A spotless palette and a canvas turned away from us begs for us to ask questions – is he opening his studio to the world or is the world presenting him with another reference to a new painting? A painting within the painting, the window becomes a mise en abyme of the artist’s work. Like Jan Van Eyck in Les Epoux Arnolfini, the piece becomes a reflection of the world and a portrait of the artist’s status.
In another piece, Bira reClimate Change (acrylic on canvas), a traditional Shona rain ceremonial is taking place on stage in front of an audience. The all white dressed musicians play a traditional Zimbabwean instrument, ‘mbira’ (a lamellophone) with a spirit medium ‘angel’ figure, wings spread, seems to be the conductor of this orchestra. In the lush green background, vocalists and a hand waving a Zimbabwean flag emerge. The middle foreground shows a globe of the world, with a thermometer that indicates that its temperature is rising.
Like a stage director, painting all his characters to make them “play” in his visual drama; Mudariki allows us to apprehend the political situation of this world, without ever directing us to the next act.