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Monday, 24 February 2014

For The Love of Art at Zebra Crossings Cafe

By Andrew Mulenga

For The Love of Art a group exhibition that opened at the newly refurbished Zebra Crossings Café on Addis Ababa Drive in Lusaka on Thursday last week is still showing in case you missed the launch.

Boxer (oil on canvas) by Ashleigh Drazdik
A sequel to Hidden Talents Revealed an exhibition that showcased work by about 10 little known artists at the same venue in February 2013, the current show also brings a new batch of newcomers to the public eye.

One or two of the featured artists such as Candice Rogoff and Montfort Chinunda – or Monty as he signs his work – are familiar because they have exhibited here before.

The other artists, about 12 in total are all new and exhibit varying levels of artistic ability. Frankly, it appears a number of them, if not all are hobby-painters that belong to an art club that meets at Ababa House once a week.

Caught In Action (acrylic on canvas) by Stella Dubler
Also, quite a number of them appear to be of South African or Zimbabwean extraction with a European settler ethnicity and much of their work is heavily influenced by subject matter from their heritage such as still life arrangements, bird watching, game viewing and farming, but generally the works do provide an entertaining selection of art.

Wilna Venter has some very picturesque oil paintings of farm life in her works Chicken and Karoo Windmill – in case you were wondering, the Karoo is a semi-desert in South Africa that was once occupied by the Trekboere, a group of nomadic pastoral farmers descended from Dutch colonists.

Chickens (oil on canvas)
by Wilna Venter
Stella Dubler gives us a convincing attempt at hyperrealism; she does not do it with the clinical precision of Dirk Dzimirsky – the German hyperrealist painter featured in this column in July last year -- but she does  manage to paint realistic portrayals of fishing birds birds pouncing on their prey and these are executed in photographic precision. Dubler paints every last drop of water making her work quite realistic as can be seen in Caught in Action.

Charmaine Bowker provides some very painterly and charming landscapes as can be seen in Twin Palms which is finished in oil on board. Also showing strong painterly skills is Ashleigh Drazdik and Boxer, a large painting of a dog is finished in thick impasto showing that there was no paint to spare in her painting process.

In works such as Gathering Wood, Daniela Denham gives a snapshot of everyday people depicting two women going about their daily firewood collecting chores, they have heavy loads on their heads and their colourful chitenge waist wraps set against a plain white backdrop gives them a powerful focal emphasis.

Smart Montylicious
(mixed media) by Monty
Monty has three paintings in this exhibition and two of them once again bare the annoyingly strong influence of his mentor Stary Mwaba’s work. The work Migration for instance is an absolute spinoff of Mwaba’s work. Monty openly borrows the ghostlike figures that are frequently placed in his mentors work and this time even the colour palette resembles that of Mwaba with its strong shades of browns and blues.

There is no harm in being a protégé, but one must also work at breaking free, blending a mentor’s influence with one’s own originality which at least Monty tries to attempt in the piece Smart Montylicous an abstract portrait which is relatively original save for the thick lips, gaping mouth and large teeth of the subject that could have been lifted off Mulenga Mulenga’s Father Who portrait series exhibited during the Small Works and Miniatures Exhibition at the same venue last December.

Gathering Wood - detail (acrylic on canvas)
by Daniela Denham
Nevertheless, For The Love of Art is an exhibition of works by artists who enjoy doing what they do and probably have fun while doing so, the works are not pretentious although some of them may be overly flippant and just a little too decorative in nature, lacking a pinch of depth and a splash of seriousness, but as usual the Red Dot Gallery – alongside The Art Shop -- once again helps to add its welcome contribution to the Lusaka gallery circuit.

Meanwhile, renowned artist Enoch Ilunga has bemoaned the resent death of prominent lawyer and former Constitution Review Commission chairperson Wila Mung’omba who died at the age of 74 in South Africa early this week.

“Wila Disraeli Mung’omba was like a father to me, he supported me fully. I met him in 1977 or 1978 somewhere there long before he went to work in Abidjan at the African Development Bank. He continuously supported me and even gave me a brand new Toyota pick-up with a canopy, free of charge,” explained a visibly touched Ilunga during an interview in the Lusaka Show grounds this week.

Hey Rooster (acrylic on canvas) by Candice Rogoff
He described the late Mung’omba as one of the few indigenous collectors of Zambian art, an unsung hero with regards arts patronage.

“For me it is a very big shock, he was a man of class, very elegant, even when he was chairman at the ZCCM he supported me. But it’s not just me alone it is also other artists, we have lost a true indigenous patron this is a very big blow to the visual arts in Zambia, a sad time indeed. We have lost a collector”.

Twin Palms (oil on board) by Charmaine Bowker

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