Stevenson, Johannesburg, South Africa 09 Nov 2019 - 24 Jan 2020
Nelly Guambe, Caras (Detail) 2019, Courtesy of the artist.
STEVENSON presents Caras, a solo exhibition by Nelly Guambe comprising installation and drawing.
Having garnered notice for her portraits on canvas, Guambe now presents a constellation of visages on paper. The works in Caras (‘Faces’ in Portuguese) were catalysed by the disaster images following reportage on Cyclone Idai (March 2019), considered one of the worst recorded storms to affect the Southern Hemisphere. Guambe recalls seeing images of people united in abjection, noting: ‘I was drawing in my room, and in those images there was something that touched me; it touched me to my core, and I don’t know where this is taking me.’
The melancholic, diminutive faces in Caras were made between the artist’s home of Maputo and Cape Town’s Breaking Bread, where she recently completed a residency. She describes her process as one of finding ways to express what she sees around her. Of both the disaster footage, and impressions accumulated during her travels through Cape Town, Guambe remarks at being struck by the inevitable formation of social ecosystems, as well as the dilemma between fear and trust in the negotiation of space.
Mar de Gente (‘Ocean of People’), a new series of mass portraits, also articulates Guambe’s exploration of agency within collectivity. The interiority of each figure is asserted at the same time as it forms part of the crowd. Guambe adds, ‘They start existing when I open their eyes. Sometimes they really look at you. They say, “I’ve arrived”.’
The cautious vulnerability of Guambe’s portraits is echoed in the artist’s chosen mode of presentation. Installed with wire rather than mounted and enclosed, the works’ symbiosis is reflected in their materiality, with Guambe stating: ‘The pages are also vulnerable and reliant; they all need each other. It’s not fixed.’
Nelly Guambe (born 1987 in Inhambane, Mozambique) is the winner of the inaugural Emerging Painting Invitational prize, Harare, and the Mozal prize in the Category ‘Artes Plasticas’ (both 2019). Guambe completed a BA in International Relations and Diplomacy, and in 2017 cofounded the Deal Creative Space in Maputo, promoting design, entertainment, arts and literature. Her work was included in Stevenson’s About Face exhibition in 2018.