Portia Zvavahera: Talitha Cumi 

Stevenson Gallery , Johannesburg, South Africa
18 May 2019 - 12 Jul 2019

Portia Zvavahera,

Portia Zvavahera, "Embraced and Protected in You" (detail), 2016. Courtesy of the Artist and STEVENSON Gallery

STEVENSON is proud to announce the opening of its new gallery space in Parktown North with a solo exhibition by Portia Zvavahera.

The show’s title, Talitha Cumi (an Aramaic phrase meaning ‘Little girl, arise’), makes reference to a Biblical story, from the Gospel of St Mark, in which Jesus resurrects a child from the dead; accordingly, Zvavahera’s new group of paintings is concerned with a longing for spiritual transcendence, freedom from the ongoing cycle of human suffering. As with previous bodies of work, Zvavahera cites a dream as her starting point – in this instance, one of struggle and a desire to be ‘lifted up’.

The image of the bull, which entered Zvavahera’s iconography during a residency in India in 2018, appearing in the triptych she produced for the 10th Berlin Biennale, recurs here as an oppressive force, yet one that inspires a necessary striving for transformation. The artist notes, ‘I know there’s going to be a battle in the future when I see a bull in my dreams. When the beast is around I pray more. He is the problem but also the solution.’

Rising up, the central figure in many of Zvavahera’s paintings is surrounded by an aura of radiating lines – sometimes a delicately printed pattern resembling crochet or lacework, at other times a fluttering of expressive gestures – that suggests a protective veil, a guiding influence that embraces and elevates.

This is Zvavahera’s sixth solo exhibition with Stevenson, following Take Me Deeper at the Cape Town gallery at the end of 2017. In 2018 Zvavahera participated in Hacer Noche (‘Crossing Night’) in Oaxaca, Mexico (2018); The Fabric of Felicity at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2018); Five Bhobh – Painting at the End of an Era at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town (2018); We don’t need another hero, the 10th Berlin Biennale (2018); and a residency at 1 Shanti Road in Bangalore, India.

Zvavahera’s exhibition will inaugurate Stevenson Johannesburg’s new space, opening on Saturday 18 May from 10am to 1pm. The new gallery is situated at 46 7th Avenue, Parktown North, accessible via Jan Smuts Avenue with close proximity to the Gautrain. Built in the early 20th century as a family residence, it has now been transformed into a minimal environment conducive to viewing art with the help of Tonic design. For the first time Stevenson Johannesburg will have dedicated parking and wheelchair access.