Muchatuta (b. 1984, Mvuma, Zimbabwe), lives and works in Cape Town. Muchatuta began his career as a pottery decorator at Ros Byrne Pottery in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2001. He was then mentored at Gallery Delta in Harare and finished his fine art exams through the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 2003. Having relocated to South Africa in 2007 to pursue his career as an artist, he is now recognized as a qualified Master Mosaic Artist from Spier Arts Academy in Cape Town, where he completed his studies in 2012. Muchatuta’s artworks grace numerous private, public and corporate collections including The Spier collection, Hollard, Board members of the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Nandos – fine art collection, US Senate offices and others based in Africa and abroad. He has participated in numerous exhibitions in Africa and internationally including the Stellenbosch Triennale and is often invited to participate in dialogues around issues of pertinence to art and Africa. Muchatuta will be one of the four artists representing Zimbabwe in next year’s Venice Biennale.
Ronald Muchatuta’s layered, multi-media canvases entail a kindred methodology whereby the absence or balance of colour are key to establishing not only a compelling composition, but also dimensional feeling. His collages encompass a masterly technique of image-sourcing, bringing to life texture and contrast through a careful sensitivity towards colour, art history, and human connection. Muchatuta’s mark-making practice is deeply steeped in process, from initial research to physical cutting to conceptually putting back together. Indeed in lieu of the end product being at the forefront of the artist’s mind, he embraces the spontaneous and a trust in intuition leading to a world of spontaneous and infinite abstraction. Whilst his oeuvre often seeks to explore the depths of darker, diasporic references from displacement to discrimination, his recent body of work Kuramama (Shona for To Survive) is a topical search for the beauty that can be found in moments of breath – a cross-section between life and death. Emerging out of the artist’s experience throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with projects being cancelled and mobility constantly restricted, this series embraced the literal and metaphysical nature of the upside-down. For Muchatuta his creative impulse reached towards the personal, reflecting internally on human nature and the circle of life through ideas of legacy, spirituality, nostalgia, beauty, and cultural conditioning. Through this resilient impetus the artist’s colour palette opened up along with his subject matter, for in order to evoke a mindset of memories, new colours came to the surface in order to vividly evoke hope and grief. These unique works offer us an escape from reality – a respite of reverie to conjure the memories that will help us survive.
In Yellow (2020), the artist’s recent attraction towards colour is vibrantly on display. The eponymous colour can be found splashed across the torn paper comprising the garment of a young girl, combining the techniques of Muchatuta’s intuitive storytelling process through collage with his emotive visual strategy through newfound colour theory. Our eyes start with the yellow, framing the youthful protagonist and grounding the work in a deep nostalgia for many West African women and girls who will have had a reminiscent special occasion dress for birthdays and weddings. Abstract blue shapes draw our attention across the canvas only to discover hand-drawn rubber duckies amongst distinct facial features, leading towards a darker background in contrast to characterful shadows. It’s a cacophonous symphony of iconic images, torn materials, and colourful memories evoking a distinct realm where the past, present, and future collide. A metaphorical grounding of the metaphysical can also be in several works alluding to ancestors, with deep blue masks, yellow silhouettes, and cut-out eyes sprinkled across composite figures. These works manifest the artist’s ideology that as humans, we consume a limitless amount of images in both our waking hours and latent dreams, leaving us to – purposefully or subconsciously – break them apart and put them together again to create world views.
Through these imaginative compositions of confusion or even discomfort, the artist challenges traditional methods of mark-making whilst enabling audiences to see things in a different way. Indeed, Muchatuta’s art historical training is as metaphorical as it is traditional – romanticism and surrealism competes efficaciously with his more intellectual and technical aptitude, creating a hybrid space whereby the legacy of Westerns masters mixes with African belief systems and global art history – challenging the potential for myopic, insular gazes that restrict a nuanced and layered depiction of what humans need to survive and thrive.