Victoria Miro presents the gallery’s second exhibition by Wangechi Mutu, widely known for her elaborate collages that explore and subvert cultural preconceptions of the female body and the feminine.
Mutu’s practice has been described as engaging in her own unique form of myth-making. This exhibition, Nguva na Nyoka (meaning “Sirens and Serpents” in Kiswahili) presents Mutu’s latest body of collage, video and sculptural works. Drawing on such diverse references as East African coastal mythologies (particularly of nguvas, or water women), gender and racial politics, Western popular culture, Eastern and ancient beliefs and autobiography, in her works Mutu proposes worlds within worlds, populated by powerful hybridised female figures.
Mutu’s latest collage-paintings are defined by a shift away from her much-documented use of Mylar as a substrate to a use of vinyl and linoleum as the basis for the works, allowing for a more densely textured and sculptural ground. Painterly techniques are employed alongside Mutu’s signature construction of images comprised of deftly cut-out and collaged forms. In addition, Mutu’s visual language is further enriched in these works by her use of unexpected materials such as tea, batik fabrics, synthetic hair, Kenyan soil, feathers, and sand, amongst other media – many of which are imbued with their own cultural significations.
The interweaving of fact with fiction and an extension of the possibilities for yet another group of symbolic female characterisations that co-exist in various cultures as another understanding (or constructing) of femaleness underpins this new body of work. The exhibition will also feature a video, entitled Nguva, a multi-tiered performance featuring the mesmeric eponymous role: a mysterious acquatic character who emerges from the sea onto land and wanders, restless, vicious and curious.
Victoria Miro Gallery I
16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW