Southern Guild is kicking off 2023 with a double-hitter of solo exhibitions by artist Porky Hefer and Zimbabwean painter Wycliffe Mundopa, both opening on Wednesday, 8th February.
Volume 4. Chaos Calamus – Interspecies Reciprocal Altruism by Porky Hefer launches a new collection of seating pods woven entirely in Kooboo cane – Hefer’s original material of choice – and incorporating carved timber sculptures by artist Adam Birch for the first time. This body of work reflects on the phenomenon of mutually beneficial symbiosis between species and looks to microbiology in its development of seating typologies – in particular, to amoeba.
Pachipamwe (We Meet Again) by Wycliffe Mundopa, in association with First Floor Gallery Harare, presents a new group of figurative oil paintings bearing visceral witness to the complex lives of Zimbabwe’s women and children. Rooted in the power of truth-seeing and the drama and beauty of the ordinary, Mundopa’s paintings elevate the daily ongoings of his people toward historic significance.
Please continue reading for the in-depth press releases of Volume 4. Chaos Calamus – Interspecies Reciprocal Altruism, and Pachipamwe (We Meet Again) :
PORKY HEFER: Volume 4. Chaos Calamus – Interspecies Reciprocal Altruism
8 February – 20 April 2023
Image 1-2: Porky Hefer by Hayden Phipps /// Southern Guild Image 3: Porky Hefer, Adam Birch by Hayden Phipps /// Southern Guild
Southern Guild is proud to present Volume 4. Chaos Calamus – Interspecies Reciprocal Altruism, a solo exhibition of new seating pods by Porky Hefer from 9 February to 20 April, 2023. Woven entirely in Kooboo cane – Hefer’s original material of choice – and incorporating carved timber sculptures by artist Adam Birch for the first time, this body of work reflects on the phenomenon of mutually beneficial symbiosis between species.
A keen observer of natural phenomena, organic forms, animal behaviours, and ecosystems, Hefer’s work is steeped in his fascination with biomimicry. A patch of forest floor, an anthill, the movement of lava – in Hefer’s mind, each unravels a parallel universe that offers a metaphoric lens through which to view our relationship to each other and the world at large. His collections of sculptural seating environments are speculative interventions, a series of playful proposals that take their cue from nature’s unerring adaptability, resourcefulness and interconnection.
Although originally inspired by the complex woven nests of the sociable weaver bird, the works in Chaos Calamus look to microbiology in their development of seating typologies – in particular, to amoeba. The unicellular organisms are known for their ability to alter their shapes by extending and retracting pseudopods or arm-like projections. Amoebas defy our assumptions around solidity and shape in the way they move, morph, and grow. “An amoeba keeps breaking up and reinventing its own structure in order to move into a space to perform a task,” says Hefer, describing them as the ultimate monster from a sci-fi movie.
The taxonomy of the exhibition’s title refers to the Chaos genus of amoeboid organisms which includes the so-called “giant amoeba”, Chaos carolinensis, the largest and best-known species. In Hefer’s speculative science, these works are a new species incorporating a fictional link to the Calamus genus of rattan palm.
The neat, bulbous shapes of the artist’s earlier nests are here extended and draped, resulting in fluid and oozing forms with interiors generous enough to accommodate at least two sitters inside. They are supported by large tree-fork sculptures by Birch, and as such, constitute a marriage of forms, crafts and makers – a symbiosis to which the title alludes. The works were also produced with the contribution of Hefer’s long-time collaborators, cane weavers from the Cape Town Society for the Blind, as well as welder Wellington Moyo, who crafted each metal frame.
Image 1 & 3: Porky Hefer Process 2020 by Adel Ferreira /// Southern Guild Image 2: Porky Hefer by Hayden Phipps /// Southern Guild
Porky Hefer was born in 1968, in the era where Radical Design emerged with Futurist-designed environments and objects that were more than a chair or a table – pieces that would assault your eyes and also your spirit. It was during this time that Wendell Castle and Joe Colombo made units of self-sufficiency to isolate and change experiences completely. It opened up horizons and possibilities that fulfilled more than simply a basic need to sit.
Fascinated by the reactions and energy a piece can generate in a space, Hefer embraces Africa and the skills and processes that are readily available indigenously, rather than trying to emulate foreign processes. Making use of traditional techniques and crafts that focus on the hand rather than machinery, his work ensures that age-old skills are preserved and kept relevant in a modern age. Hefer’s life-size nests, woven with Kooboo cane, are a result of his in-depth study into this social bird’s nest-building skills, made relevant for a human audience. His work’s progression into leather and recycled and sustainable materials has further evolved this exploration of ways in which living pods can be presented.
Hefer is the recipient of two Design Foundation Icon Awards (2013 and 2018), as well as two Wallpaper* Design Awards (2019 and 2022). His first solo show, Monstera Deliciosa, Volume I (2015) was followed by a solo representation of South Africa with Southern Guild at the London Design Biennale (2016), and a solo at R & Company in New York (2017). Co-presented by Southern Guild and SFA Advisory, his Endangered collection was exhibited at Design Miami/ Basel (2018), with proceeds benefiting the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Plastocene – Marine Mutants From a Disposable World premiered at the 2020 NGV Triennial at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.
WYCLIFFE MUNDOPA: Pachipamwe (We Meet Again)
8 February – 20 April 2023
Image 1: Wycliffe Mundopa Portrait by First Floor Gallery, Harare
Image 2: Wycliffe Mundopa, Blind Wisdom Part 2. 2020. First Floor Gallery
Southern Guild, in collaboration with First Floor Gallery Harare, is proud to present Pachipamwe (We Meet Again), a solo exhibition of figurative oil paintings by Zimbabwean artist Wycliffe Mundopa. The exhibition of large-scale canvases bear visceral witness to the complex lives of Zimbabwe’s women and children. The collection will be on view at the gallery from 8 February to 20 April 2023.
For more than 15 years, Mundopa has harnessed his role as an artist to give visibility and voice to the unseen and unheard. The painter’s work is a response to life as he observes and experiences it. Each of his grand compositions, saturated in their carnivalesque colour and brimming with impassioned gesture, canonises the stories of Harare’s women. Believing in the power of truth-seeing and the drama and beauty of the ordinary, Mundopa’s paintings elevate the daily happenings of his people toward historic significance.
Lurid hues, vibrant pattern, rich allegory and animal symbolism have come to define a potent visual language for the artist. The allegorical mingles with the mundane as a vividly spotted hyena is carried to the local market, fruit-sellers sit streetside in striped stockings and circus garb, a woman’s face bears the distinct snout of a pig. These symbols are visualisations of vernacular expressions. Encoded within each metaphor is commentary referring to the country’s broader societal fabric, and its fluctuating moral codes. The crowding of each of the rendered street scenes creates a shifting sense of perspective as multiple focal points fiercely compete for the eye’s attention. The viewer is initially seduced and overwhelmed by the sumptuous pageantry of the work, but a closer viewing challenges us to engage with the harsher realities that Mundopa’s world is built upon. This witnessing stands beyond literal documentation; the artist mythologises the everyday with both violence and empathy.
Carousel 1: Wycliffe Mundopa, Urban Savannah Part 2. 2022. First Floor Gallery. Wycliffe Mundopa, Prize Bride. 2022. First Floor Gallery Wycliffe Mundopa, Flesh-pots Part 2. 2022. First Floor Gallery
Carousel 2: Wycliffe Mundopa, A Rose by Every Other Name Part1. 2021. First Floor Gallery Harare. Wycliffe Mundopa, Better The Devil You Know. 2022. First Floor Gallery.
Wycliffe Mundopa, Nostalgia Revisited Part1. 2022. First Floor Gallery.
Drawing from the tradition of the Old Dutch Masters, Mundopa presents a multi-dimensional image of his countrywomen. These audacious figures – breadwinners, sex workers, mothers and muses – renounce historically reductive modes of representation. His women are dynamic, desirous, joyous and resilient in the face of social circumstances that do not often lend themselves to a life of power. The fullness of this portrayal begs us to see both the pain and vibrancy of these women’s lives.
Valerie Kabov, co-founder of First Floor Gallery, shares this: “Using the dichotomies of anger in beauty and beauty in the pain, Mundopa enables us to emerge from the dichotomy of looking and seeing. Not only do his mythologised but dramatically real subjects compel you to see them, they challenge you to question the way you look, moving between didactic and heroic as though that was a natural oscillation.” Here, the artist utilises a painterly tradition often guarded by the West, to revel in the contemporary complexities of African life.
For Mundopa, the personal is always political. Born in the town of Rusape in north-eastern Zimbabwe, the painter’s practice developed amidst the country’s socio-economic and political upheaval. In the early 2000s, following a prolonged and devastating period of hyperinflation, at a juncture when other artists left the country to seek opportunity elsewhere, he made the choice to remain. The decision was weighted with both personal sacrifice and a life-affirming sense of responsibility. Mundopa is now hailed as one of Zimbabwe’s most recognised and successful contemporary artists.
The exhibition proudly marks the first collaborative project between Southern Guild and First Floor Gallery Harare, which was founded in 2009 by Kabov, an art critic and art advocate, and Marcus Gora, a cultural promoter. Against the odds, in an embattled environment with little to no arts infrastructure, First Floor has grown into an internationally respected contemporary arts space. The gallery is committed to fostering the development of local artists, promoting intercultural dialogue, and bolstering education in the broader cultural sphere.
Image 1: Wycliffe Mundopa, Afternoon Delight Part 2. 2022. First Floor Gallery. Image 2: Wycliffe Mundopa, Afternoon Delight Part 1. 2022. First Floor Gallery.
Born 1987 in Rusape, Zimbabwe, Wycliffe Mundopa graduated from the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Visual Arts Studios in 2007 with a National Certificate in Fine Art. A passionate advocate for the lives of society’s most vulnerable, his large-scale works give an exalted platform to Zimbabwe’s women and children.
Mundopa makes an urgent case for the importance of presenting life of his country and his contemporaries with the same pathos and grandeur as the Dutch masters while situating himself as an heir to the grand tradition.
Since joining First Floor in 2009, Mundopa has held multiple solo presentations of his work at the gallery and attracted international attention from important institutions, collectors and critics. His 2020 solo exhibition at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery in London was followed by his winning South Africa’s FNB Art Prize in 2021. He has participated widely in group shows in the UK, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Norway, the US, Israel, Australia and Kenya.
ABOUT SOUTHERN GUILD
Southern Guild specialises in functional and fine art by artists from Africa. Through exhibition making and community engagement, the gallery catalyses the creation of globally relevant work. Southern Guild’s rigorous curatorial programme focuses on unprecedented modes of making, cross-disciplinary collaborations, contemporary craft, sustainability and social impact. Founded in 2008 by Trevyn and Julian McGowan, the gallery is unique on the continent both for its hands-on involvement in facilitating production and its interest in the intersection of art and design. https://southernguild.co.za/
Published: 7 February 2023