An installation view of the exhibition titled Portia Zvavahera Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, at David Zwirner, London, in 2020.

Portia Zvavahera

Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira

David Zwirner is pleased to present Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, an exhibition of new paintings by the Zimbabwean artist Portia Zvavahera. The title translates from Shona to English as ‘I took my rest in sleep and then I awoke for He sustained me.’ On view in The Upper Room at the gallery’s London location, this will be Zvavahera’s first solo presentation in Europe.

 

In her paintings, Zvavahera gives form to emotions that manifest from other realms and dimensions beyond the domains of everyday life and thought. Her vivid imagery is rooted in the cornerstones of our earthly existence—life and death, pain and pleasure, isolation and connection, and love and loss. These deeply personal visions are realised through layers of vibrant colour and ornate, veil-like patterns that the artist builds up into palimpsestic surfaces through a combination of expressive brushwork and elaborate printmaking techniques. Zvavahera’s compositions draw on particular traditions of figuration in past and present Zimbabwe, first expressed in the work of Thomas Mukarobgwa in the 1960s, while also pointing to postwar artistic practices that probe the nature of the human condition.

 

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The gallery is open to the public with a limited number of visitors allowed into the exhibition spaces at a time, in accordance with city guidelines.

To schedule your visit to this exhibition, please click here.

To learn more about the enhanced safety measures currently in place at this location and others, please click here.

 

Image: Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, David Zwirner, London, 2020

Dates
September 15October 31, 2020
Artist
Portia Zvavahera

“As human beings … we are told about our future and our past through dreams. This is what I’m trying to speak about.… I cannot tell others what I see, only the emotions, the feelings that I try to transfer to the canvas. When you have a dream it’s like when you look at a painting: there’s a focal point. In the dream there’s this thing that strikes you, and that’s where I create my painting.”

Portia Zvavahera

“When we sleep, where do we really go? What happens? How do we come back from sleep? What if I can’t come back?

This is where I traveled. That is the title of all the works.”

A detail from a painting by Portia Zvavahera, titled This is where I travelled [2], dated 2020.

Portia Zvavahera, This is where I travelled [2], 2020 (detail)

Portia Zvavahera, This is where I travelled [2], 2020 (detail)

A painting by Portia Zvavahera, titled This is where I travelled [2], dated 2020.

Portia Zvavahera

This is where I travelled [2], 2020
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
81 1/4 x 69 3/4 inches
(206.4 x 177.3 cm)
Framed: 82 1/2 x 71 1/4 inches
(209.4 x 181 cm)

“Zvavahera’s painted world is always dark. Her charmed, draped figures float in a sea of purples, crimsons, and other cloudy washes of thinly layered paint. Size is central to the power of her work. The paintings are massive and loom with spectral energy.”

—Percy Mabandu, The Sunday Times

Zvavahera’s works are composed using layers of oil bar and oil-based printing ink, overlaid with printed areas that at once veil and substantiate unmoored figures. A wax-resist process similar to that used in batik textiles reveals decorative elements beneath the layers.

A photo of Portia Zvavahera working in her studio in Zimbabwe, in 2020.

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2020. Photo by Gideon Gomo

 

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2020. Photo by Gideon Gomo

 

A painting by Portia Zvavahera, titled This is where I travelled [4], dated 2020.

Portia Zvavahera

This is where I travelled [4], 2020
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
95 1/2 x 79 1/8 inches
(242.5 x 201 cm)
Framed: 96 5/8 x 80 3/8 inches
(245.3 x 204.2 cm)

“For me, painting is an internal necessity, a need to express myself while trying to be clear about my intentions concerning subjects that have affected me—to commit myself concerning vital problems, the problems of our existence.”

“Zvavahera’s representation of women’s roles and their bodies in her opaque painterly style touches on women’s issues not solely in her own locale, but also worldwide.… The painted patterns perform the task of obstructing easy visual access to the women represented.… This active veiling is a moment of resistance and self-empowerment.”

Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, art historian

“[Here] I wanted to capture the feeling of a night scene, like the stars. So I did not have any other way except to just splash the paint.... That is the exciting part, just waiting to see how it looks. You always have this vision that you want it to look this way, but sometimes when you are painting and doing the designs it is amazing the mixture of colors that comes out after you iron it the batik.”

A painting by Portia Zvavahera, titled This is where I travelled [5], dated 2020.

Portia Zvavahera

This is where I travelled [5], 2020
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
88 7/8 x 75 7/8 inches
(226 x 193 cm)
Framed: 90 1/8 x 77 1/2 inches
(229 x 197 cm)
A photo of Portia Zvavahera working in her studio in Zimbabwe, in 2020.

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2020. Photo by Gideon Gomo

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2020. Photo by Gideon Gomo

“Ever present … are the entangled worlds of the spiritual and the ancestral, worlds that are protective, demanding, and at times even petty. Zvavahera speaks of feeling both challenged by the differences in her understanding of spirituality and optimistic about the recognition of a shared resistance against the powers that have threatened our humanity. Through her mind’s eye Zvavahera transports us deeper and deeper towards our true selves. You can escape but you’ll always need to come back.”


Gabi Ngcobo, curator

A painting by Portia Zvavahera, titled This is where I travelled [1], dated 2020.

Portia Zvavahera

This is where I travelled [1], 2020
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
80 7/8 x 104 5/8 inches
(205.5 x 265.8 cm)
Framed: 82 1/8 x 106 1/8 inches
(208.6 x 269.4 cm)

“When I see a bull in my dreams … it’s spiritual but evil. I know there’s going to be a battle in the future when I see a bull in my dreams.… In Zimbabwe, we have people who put spirits on bulls, and the bull becomes a god in the family. Whenever they want something they have to worship the bull in order to get it.”

An installation view of the exhibition titled Portia Zvavahera Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, at David Zwirner, London, in 2020.

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, David Zwirner, London, 2020

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, David Zwirner, London, 2020

An installation view titled, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, at David Zwirner, London, 2020.

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, David Zwirner, London, 2020

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, David Zwirner, London, 2020

An installation view of an exhibition titled  Portia Zvavahera: Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, at David Zwirner, London, in 2020.

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, David Zwirner, London, 2020

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, David Zwirner, London, 2020

“I have a cycle, I should say, because my work is all about my life experiences. I paint mostly painful moments. It’s like a healing process.… I think that people can relate to what I’m experiencing.… The dream is like the prophet, telling you about the future.”

A detial form a work by Portia Zvavahera, titled This is where I travelled [3], dated 2020.

Portia Zvavahera, This is where I travelled [3], 2020 (detail)

Portia Zvavahera, This is where I travelled [3], 2020 (detail)

A detail from a painting by Portia Zvavahera, titled This is where I travelled [3], dated 2020.

Portia Zvavahera, This is where I travelled [3], 2020 (detail)

Portia Zvavahera, This is where I travelled [3], 2020 (detail)

“In a wedding a veil [means] the start of a new life. And when you are praying, you also wear a veil to renew your spirit. Here in Zimbabwe, people usually put on a veil when people die.… So, for me, a veil symbolizes a new life.”

 A painting by Portia Zvavahera, titled This is where I travelled [3], dated 2020.

Portia Zvavahera

This is where I travelled [3], 2020
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
73 1/4 x 73 1/4 inches
(186 x 186.1 cm)
Framed: 74 1/2 x 74 5/8 inches
(189.3 x 189.6 cm)
A photo of Portia Zvavahera's studio in Zimbabwe, in 2020.

Portia Zvavahera's studio, Harare Zimbabwe. Photo by Gideon Gomo

Portia Zvavahera's studio, Harare Zimbabwe. Photo by Gideon Gomo

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