By Stephen Garan'anga
The changing nature of art is determined by the changing of what art is made from. The 20th century C20 artists’ movement away from traditional materials, stone, bronze, wood, clay to the engagement of the natural or man-made object is in keeping, however, with the tradition of the African mask maker who would take the wood from the tree, the feathers from the back of the chicken, the bones of the dead cattle and the pigments used by the late stone age artists and fashion them into a mask worn to appease deities and spirits.
Such an approach was also Picasso’s, who created from an astounding array of life’s leftovers a goat, or some kind of object which, because it was made by an artist, was during his time called a sculpture.
These approaches presaged an alternative way of looking at art by artists today. All artists respond in some way to what they see around them, and what they feel about what they see.
But the challenge in the C20 to the longer traditional of sculpture hallmarked by wood and marble and sandstone and bronze is sculptors taking the run of the mill and giving it some kind of presence and, indeed, additional values as art- transforming the object in the manner that the mediaeval alchemists transformed base metal into gold.
Such is the case with today’s young contemporary mixed media sculptors in Zimbabwe. They have minds which work very differently to the minds of many artists working in the country today whose concerns are dedicated by the needs and wants of their materials.
The young mixed media sculptors’ work is in a mixture of traditional materials, in particular bronze of a sickly green and opal stone with a greenish palor.
But they also use full-bodied fruit opal stone and gnarled bits of old tree which seems to rot before the eyes of the viewers. They speak of nature’s decay as well as its eternal.
But they also use an array of found objects, things we consign to the bin and the tip and rush to the store to buy new ones.
In a recent interview with The AfricanColours Artists’ Association (AAA) during its current nationwide visual arts seminars, one of the leading young religious mixed media artist with his colleagues had this to comment.
“I feel sometimes as if I’m a pencil in god’s hand, that I am somehow caught up beyond my control in god’s purpose and his purpose for life. So are my fellow artists, my spiritual partners.
I feel art has the power to correct the past, to show people how things have been wrong in different eras which have denied good and put material things in his place.
I cannot organized in my religion, I cannot say is the day I will pray and this is the day I will fast. To me, a church is two people coming together spiritually. He says.
They don’t have to wear hats carry prayer book. They can meet on the street or in the bus, or through art as we all have.
So our group is a group which has come together through art as we all have. So our group is a group which has come together through similar spiritual convictions and goals”.
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