Biennale of Sydney

Misheck Masamvu

Left to Right: Misheck Masamvu, 'Cat’s Cradle', 2019; 'Unaccounted Histories', 2018; 'Budding Spirits', 2019 (detail); and 'Therapy Lounge', 2019. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Left to Right: Misheck Masamvu, 'Therapy Lounge', 2019; and 'Combed Grass', 2019. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Left to Right: Misheck Masamvu, 'Pegged', 2019; 'Border Dispute', 2019; 'Food Tree', 2019; 'No Need for Voices', 2019; 'Smoke Signal', 2019; 'Table Cloth', 2019; 'No Ants', 2019; and 'Still Still', 2019. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Campbelltown Arts Centre. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London. Photograph: Document Photography.
Left to Right: Misheck Masamvu, 'Border Dispute', 2019 (detail); 'Food Tree', 2019; 'No Need for Voices', 2019; and 'Smoke Signal', 2019. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Campbelltown Arts Centre. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London. Photograph: Document Photography.

Misheck Masamvu

Born 1980 Mutare, Zimbabwe
Lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Johannesburg, South Africa


"NIRIN for me relates to the idea of transformation. There are considerable changes in the state and nature of an object while in motion. This shift creates a build-up of energy, which alters or enhances our ‘nature-self’. This process can lead to a sense of uprootedness from our environment. We have no choice other than to live in harmony with our surroundings. We are joined at the hip to the bark, soil and water. Our hearts beat the same tune. But instead, we often wear costumes of moral inadequacy, seeking profit over relevance."

Misheck Masamvu produced the works displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Kenya, South Africa and Germany. They form part of a nomadic project in which the artist deliberately places himself in new and unfamiliar environments. In searching for a different way of being in the world and through actively seeking out a state of alienation, the artist is able to escape the oppressive systems which categorise people and enforce particular ways of behaving in the world. His paintings comment on political and social happenings with a restlessness, mobility, multiplicity and a refusal to stay still. His poetry informs these paintings as well as his drawings on exhibition at Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Across these drawings, forms seem to be caught mid-transition, in on-going states of transformation that are in keeping with Masamvu’s description of his works as ‘mutant.’ Surreal and sketchy, they might be read as attempts to capture shifting psychological states.

Masamvu’s work draws upon his own continual movement, both physical and psychological, in an on-going search for new perspectives and self-knowledge. The repetition of ‘still’ in his accompanying poem, might indicate the stagnating structures and systems of oppression from which his restless, mutating artworks take flight or undermine.

Working predominantly as a painter and sculptor, Misheck Masamvu describes his works as ‘mutants’ that oscillate between abstraction and figuration. Masamvu’s practice is a battle against the forced ideology of government and the breakdown of the pursuit of humanity. His works are understood as marks of existence, pointing not only to the realities of his lived experience but also to mental and psychological space, where each layer of paint, or brush stroke on the canvas proposes a search to resolve conflicted experiences or decisions.

Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London

Exhibited Artwork

Misheck Masamvu, Pink Gorillas in Hell are Gods, 2019, oil on canvas, 280 x 550 cm. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Misheck Masamvu, Still Still, 2019, text, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Campbelltown Arts Centre

Misheck Masamvu, Border Dispute, 2019, oil on paper, 40.5 x 30cm. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London

Location: Campbelltown Arts Centre

Misheck Masamvu, Budding Spirits, 2019, oil on canvas, 200 x 180cm. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Misheck Masamvu, Pegged, 2019, oil on paper, 40.5 x 30cm. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London

Location: Campbelltown Arts Centre

Misheck Masamvu, Food Tree, 2019, oil on paper, 40.5 x 30cm. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London

Location: Campbelltown Arts Centre

Misheck Masamvu, Cat's Cradle, 2019, oil on canvas, 209 x 175 cm. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Misheck Masamvu, Unaccounted Histories, 2018, oil on canvas, 260 x 200 cm. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / London

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia