Mild-mannered, softly-spoken, the works that constitute Zimbabwe-born Mapondera’s show (Emergency Exit) at this stylish gallery tucked into a corner of London’s charming St. Christopher’s Place, put the lie to the popular notion that artwork needs to churn with heaving aggression and turbulence, announce its significance in full stentorian voice, to properly shake and move an audience. Fragile and resilient in equal measure, the metaphor is directly embedded in his materials-frayed threads, waxed paper, cardboard, plastics stretched and torn, but not quite yielding; it’s as much about absence as presence.Political and social crisis and stress informs his topographical canvasses (inherent in the droops and dangles, the scars, the sheer exhaustion of the textiles), conveying an aggrieved history of failures of state and global culture, each piece an aerial map of devastation and depredation of both village and people (ghostly figures hover and haunt the compositions, occasional tangles of red thread suggest bloodshed). These are painstaking, precise creations, all the more powerful for allowing the viewer to engage with them slowly and at ease, the acute implications accumulating quiet force. The oil paintings included illustrate ways in which native populations negotiate and strategise alternatives to systemic governmental inadequacy (Nemabhero references the explosion of the second-hand clothing trade; Korokoza crystallises the conflict and search for detente between commercial and artisanal gold miners in the country; the crowded bus terminal of ChiVendor Nechihwindi may address the ambitious nascent infrastructure projects now underway in Zimbabwe and the concomitant opportunities for local labourers). One Hundred and Twenty Candidates, a pronounced series of scrawled faces on blocks, thrust out from the frame, gives great attendance to activists who may otherwise face elision or discredit from authorities-Mapondera makes it impossible not to notice them. Each painting, in structure, takes on the definition of landscape-the mountainous piles of clothing; the visual dissonance of the mining factions; the cramped encampment of buses; the pointed, tiered sea of physiognomy-confirming Mapondera’s abiding preoccupation with environment.
It’s in the terrain where you will find the truth-spirit and soul are embedded within it, human traces and tributaries limned upon its surface. Emergency Exit continues through 4 July