Mutations and Permutations

Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal is an exhibition featuring Tapfuma Gutsa and two mentees; Daniel Chimurure and Ronald Mutemeri. This exhibition brings a new body of work from this veteran artist, and from his two mentees, work that compliments his vision. Working from their studio at the Harare Polytechnic since 2011 the situationist artists’ initiative is a force to be reckoned with. The environment we are living in at this particular moment inspires the situationists’ new theory and this exhibition is their response.

At this point allow me to revisit Tapfuma Gutsa’s influence in the Zimbabwean art scene. Why him and why is he such an important artist to celebrate in this exhibition? His resilience, creative mind, ideas, passion, life, struggles and hard work is what makes him what he is. It is this that you cannot take away from him; for this veteran artist always surprises his audience with a new language. Art has a mystical existence of its own, its own sacred energy that artists like Tapfuma Gutsa continue to tap into.

Throughout his career Tapfuma Gutsa has always used art as a territory of freedom and imagination. Tapfuma Gutsa is a strong believer that an artist should not stand still and the Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal exhibition is a living example of his own words. Going in and out of his studio for the past five years I have realized that Tapfuma Gutsa is deeply aware of his own intentions in his art making processes. The National Gallery of Zimbabwe celebrates not only his work but also his life as a seasoned artist, an artist that has grown over the years. It is my hope that the visitors to this exhibition will be enriched by Tapfuma Gutsa’s intentions in art making.

A few years ago, Tapfuma Gutsa developed a Mulonga body of work that was inspired by the Tonga people of the Zambezi Valley. This body of work is part of Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal. Mulonga was created after Tapfuma Gutsa’s participation at the 1st Zimbabwe Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. It was then that Tapfuma Gutsa met his two mentees at the Harare Polytechnic and the Mulonga journey started culminating in the new realization of the Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal exhibition. In this exhibition the Zimbabwean situationist guru Tapfuma Gutsa did not work with stone sculpture on a large scale but explored more on wood sculpture and found objects. He resorted to a more complex geometry of triangles, shapes, circles, weaving and disjunctions. Freely putting paint on canvas without getting frozen into formations of rigid meanings is what Tapfuma Gutsa is known for in his art making.

Tapfuma Gutsa’s lasting contribution to the global art scene both intellectually and institutionally is what we are celebrating. His postcolonial aesthetic that has evolved over his lifetime is well articulated in his work and his entry into the Zimbabwean art world in the 1980s defined contemporary art. Giving birth to Utonga – an artist initiative which Tapfuma Gutsa started in Mabvuku/Tafara for artists to come and work together – created a new generation of artists that came after him with the likes of Dominic Benhura, Raphael Mavhudzi, and Eddie Masaya to mention just a few.

Today Mutations and Permutations: A Situationist Proposal exhibition occupies, the Courtauld Gallery, East Gallery, South Gallery and all the corridors. Tapfuma Gutsa’s mentees Daniel Chimurure and Ronald Mutemeri occupy the East Gallery complementing their master.

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