Option Dzikamai Nyahunzvi, Post-Impressionism and Zimbabwean Art
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Option Dzikamai Nyahunzvi, Post-Impressionism and Zimbabwean Art

Option Dzikamai Nyahunzvi’s debut London solo exhibition Kwatinobva Kunoyera (Sacred Origins) is ending next week. To celebrate the final days of this successful solo show, we took a closer look at some of the artist’s most important influences and inspirations.

When first approaching Nyahunzvi’s artworks, one is immediately arrested by the artist’s expressive visual language. In a striking communion of the earthly and the spiritual, etheral figures and forms undulate in dreamlike movement before the viewer. Nyahunzvi’s mixed media technique of layering paper onto canvas results in almost dactylographic contours, which swirl across the backgrounds of his works, making their way onto the faces of his figures. It may therefore seem unsurprising that Nyahunzvi has primarily been inspired by Western European artistic movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which broke with the status quo to explore heightened formal and thematic abstraction. With post-impressionism, surrealism and expressionism as key sources of inspiration, the artist has developed a fluidity of form reminiscent of this experimental era of art history.

Example of Expressionism: Egon Shiele, The embrace (Lovers II), 1917, oil on canvas, 100 x 170cm (Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Egon_Schiele_-_Umarmung_(1917).jpg)

Option Dzikamai Nyahunzvi, Ziva Kwawakabva, 2021, acrylic, oil and paper collage on canvas, 97 x 74 cm 

More specifically, Nyahunzvi cites the post-impressionist, Vincent van Gogh, as a significant influence. In particular, the 1888 work, The Sower, had an important impact on Nyahunzvi’s evolving artistic style. His visible etching lines echo the vibrant patches of colour that flutter across the surface of van Gogh’s artwork. Like van Gogh, Nyahunzvi’s use of colour does not necessarily recall reality, but strives to mirror the more immaterial effects of mood and atmosphere. Equally, we can see the parallels between Van Gogh’s portraiture and Nyahunzvi’s own depictions of human sitters. Both artists seem to portray not only an exterior appearance, but the inner realms of a figure, capturing not simply a likeness but a state of mind.

Vincent van Gogh, The Sower (Sower at Sunset), 1888, oil on canvas, 64 x 80.5 cm (Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Sower.jpg)

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1889, oil on canvas, 65 x 54 cm (Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Gogh_self-portrait_(1889)#/media/File:Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Self-Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg)

Nyahunzvi has also been greatly influenced by present day artistic endeavours, particularly by fellow Zimbabwean contemporary artists. He specifically mentions Gareth Nyandoro, known for his large-scale works on paper that also employ techniques of layering and cut outs. The relationship between Nyandoro and Nyahunzvi’s bodies of work is evident in their comparative use of abstracted figures, etching lines and fluid contours. Aside from these practical associations, both artists have been chiefly inspired by their own Zimbabwean roots, exploring the vast cultural panorama of the country’s landscapes and urban environments. In this sense, Nyahunzvi is consistently inspired by the philosophy of Ubuntu. There are various definitions of the term, but Ubuntu is frequently translated to mean “humanity”. In essence, the philosophy refers to a collection of values and practices that people of Africa or of African origin ascribe to the making of an authentic human being. Ubuntu indicates that all authentic individuals live as part of a wider more significant communal, societal, environmental and spiritual world. It is a belief in a universal bond that connects humanity to its roots, a belief that drives Nyahunzvi’s entire artistic practice.

Gareth Nyandoro, AKUDA LEGENDARY, 2020, paper on board, 62 x 62 cm (Credit: https://www.tiwani.co.uk/artists/35-gareth-nyandoro/works/3488-gareth-nyandoro-akuda-legendary-2020/)

Option Dzikamai Nyahunzvi, Chitsero, 2021, acrylic, oil and paper fused on canvas, 121 x 90 cm 

When meditating on his developing influences and inspirations, Nyahunzvi reflects on his art career that has spanned the last decade and how it has largely been inspired by the world around him: “As life changes, people die and people are born, the world around us evolves and cries out for change while still presenting us with the quiet magic of everyday life. The past and the future combine to form our identities. All these attributes of the ordinary have contributed to my influences over the last ten years.”

 

 

 

 

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