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16 October 2015
Another edition of the Harare conversations was held on the 16th of October 2015 at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. The conversation was with Tapfuma Gutsa and his two mentees Ronald Mutemeri and Daniel Chimurure.
Tapfuma Gutsa is a sculptor who has been working since the late 70s. He is an artist who is never loyal to one particular style but allows different thoughts, situations, and emotions to influence him. This has allowed him to experiment and given him the advantage of the element of surprise.
The Mutations and Permutations: A Situationalist Proposal exhibition is a living example of his own words. Like a pseudoscientist, he transmutes natural raw materials into a language of archetypal symbols that originate in his own Zimbabwean cultural domain.
“The inspiration was from collecting a lot of data which is a result of Thakor Patel retrospective exhibition, I manipulated the bin column and approached Thakor Patel for ideas as he was behind the whole idea,” said Gutsa.
The work of the artist is associated with experiences and situations; issues to do with human interest. According to the artist, life is mutating every day and through the exhibition; he shows the scientific way things change with the bins as an examination of life eternity.
Gutsa’s permutations is a series of innovative paintings based on motifs derived from the shape of a metal discarded office waste paper bin. The bin column was inspired by the bins that were abandoned at Harare Poly. The works of art mutated over the months to become the collection in which the audience now observe in his current exhibitions ‘Mutations and Permutations’.
“In my permutations, I fragment and prolong the symbolism, meaning and contexts of my core subject, the bin to reveal multiple permutations of the theme in a serious sense of design logic.” said Gutsa. “Versatility is the power of formal invention and a high degree of bi-associative cognisance which allows me to see new permutations in any given form.”
In his mutation series, he was skillful at using the qualities of paint to strengthen the implications of his visions and concepts. The choice of materials makes his work look architectural and industrial.
Gutsa also explores the beliefs and aesthetics of the Tonga people of Zimbabwe of basket weave collage work form his Mulonga series of works using natural materials in his large artworks.
The inspiration came from the Tonga basket when he came up with Mulonga. This was because he studied the Tonga baskets for a long time and learnt a lot about Tonga culture.
Although he used models and insisted on painting on from prolonged and frequent sittings, it was meant to explore the character or dig deep into the psyche of his subjects. It was to comment on their place through their appearance. The issue of using bins is based on architectural geometrics.
In the paintings for the exhibition Tapfuma seeks “realism", the observation of what is new and contemporary. Realism meant not just painting accurately from life, but stripping art of all the connotations of moral lesson and monumentality as in traditional art.
There is lack of professionalism even to lectures who can really be part of the art industry, but they try to fit in to some departments which they belong yet concentrating on theory rather than the practical essence of art. The National Curriculum should be in a position to promote art culture.
“I’m not really a lecturer but rather an artist in residence. I help students with their practical work and I applaud Harare Polytechnic for this opportunity because most lecturers concentrate on theory,” said Tapfuma. “They are not well equipped to give students hands on practical experience. I do not have scheduled lectures but students can walk in and interact with me while I work in my studio.”
Gutsa taught a lot of people with his work so much about endurance, about having a good attitude toward life and taking each day as an adventure. He is greatly admired for his acquaintance of arts, credited with the help to get him the bearings to achieve more in future.