Characterised by layers of bright colours fused with contour lines, Zimbabwe-born artist Option Nyahunzvi employs his artistic practice to focus on matters of spirituality central to his Shona culture. His large, vibrant canvases are carefully considered compositions that explore the communion between ancestral spirits and the living.
Always showing an interest in art, growing up Nyahunzvi drew from his imagination. Determined to pursue his passions, Nyahunzvi went on to receive his training in printmaking from the National Gallery School of Visual Arts in Zimbabwe. There he discovered his technique of pasting layers of Fabriano paper directly onto the canvas which he then removes in strips to make visible etching lines. As a result, his most recent body of work demonstrates his skill as both a painter and a printmaker in a compelling combination of his mixed media technique.
Mbudzi Yemunhu, 2021, Oil, acrylic and collage on canvas, 86 cm x 81 cm
“There is a time I enjoy working with canvas, and there is a time I also enjoy working with paper. So, combining the two is always exciting, it creates room for endless possibilities. And when I combine the two mediums, canvas helps make the artworks stronger and more durable,” explains Nyahunzvi. The process of peeling away the paper strips is symbolic of individual struggle and as the artist himself explains, “you need to shake or peel off certain burdens and obstacles to progress in life”.
The unconventional scale of some elements in Nyahunzvi's works add interplay of near and far to the compositions and flatten out the perspective. In doing so, no line or object is emphasized and given preference to, allowing the viewer the choice of where to place their attention. This result is further enhanced by the textured layers of colour-blocking strips of paper that are contrasted by the unpainted bare cutouts.
Combining past and present, Nyahunzvi’s works are characterised by ghostly apparitions that appear as distorted figures inhabiting the backgrounds. These spirits are mostly well-intentioned, serving as guardian angels that protect their descendants. A frequent feature in Nyahunzvi’s work is the zebra- a totem that connects the artist and his clan to their ancestors. The artist inserts the Zebra print into his artworks as a profound ode to his own culture and ancestry. It serves as a point of departure for exploring and asserting the importance of traditional story-telling and mythology, from a contemporary angle. The scenes invite the viewer to participate in the creation of a narrative and to imagine what could possibly be.
Channeling and exchanging energies with those who interact with his creations, Nyahunzvi fuses innocence and spontaneity through compositions that are dominated by their backgrounds’ exotic expanse, pointing to a fantastic world pertaining to the ancestral realm. A creative haven surpassing reality, Nyahunzvi’s works invite the viewer to reflect upon the sacredness of their own origin.
Kwatinobva Kunoyera (Sacred Origins) will be on view at our Mayfair gallery until the 4th of December.
About the Artist
Born in Harare in 1992, Nyahunzvi always expressed an affinity for sketching and printmaking. He graduated with a Certificate in Visual Arts and Design awarded by Harare Polytechnic College in association with the National Gallery School of Visual Arts and Design in 2015. Nyahunzvi was awarded the Artist in Residence Programme at the National Gallery School of Visual Arts and Design in 2014. He has since featured in several exhibitions, residencies and art fairs both locally and internationally, including the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions, Delta Gallery and Tsoko Gallery. His work is held in international collections, including Manchester United Football Club in the UK, the residence of the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Ambassador of the European Union Delegation in Zimbabwe, and the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.