Gareth Nyandoro: Stall(s) of Fame
From September 29 to November 4, 2017, Tiwani Contemporary will present Stall(s) of Fame, a solo exhibition of works by Zimbabwean artist Gareth Nyandoro. The exhibition is an immersive installation, partly inspired by the urban landscape of Paris.
Nyandoro’s new large works on paper, at once graphic and sculptural, cover the floor and take the shape of a quintessentially Parisian urban structure: the Bouquiniste stands, wooden boxes used as second-hand bookshops and scattered along the banks of the Seine. Since their inception in the 12th century, these portable bookshops – the earliest examples of which pre-date the invention of the printing press in 1450 – have actively contributed to the diffusion of new ideas. Well-loved by tourists today, these precursors of mobile commercial practices embody early connections between innovation, mobility and intellectual enlightenment. They also evoke the informal market economy that has been a great source of inspiration for Nyandoro in recent years: most of his output is inspired by markets and street vendors, whose aesthetic flair and sense of entrepreneurship he has always admired.
Rather unexpectedly, upon opening the Bouquiniste stand, the viewer is presented not with books but with a number of portraits. Suspended as they are from the top of the box, the light and eerie faces, drawn with precision in a naturalistic style, float gently in the air. These are portraits of footballers, whose influence across the world is arguably as significant today as the books the stands held many centuries ago.
Featuring famous African players such as George Weah and Roger Milla – captured in a moment of victory in what would become known as his ‘corner flag celebration’ – the work draws parallels between the ancient economy of the book and the recent economy of football. Nyandoro considers the shift, across time and geography, between various cultural manifestations, from literature to popular forms of entertainment such as sports, and asks where we are to locate cultural value and influence today. Other fundamental questions around the commodification and objectification of players point to wider concerns regarding consumerism, celebrity and exploitation in modern capitalist societies.
Fittingly for an exhibition which was partly inspired by the early modes of dissemination of the printed page, the works were produced using Nyandoro’s unique kucheka-cheka technique, which calls upon his past training in printmaking. Upon preparing an etching, Nyandoro realised he was equally as interested in the engraved copper plate as he was in the print. He thus developed a distinctive working method, derived from etching: using sharp blades, the artist cut-draws into large pieces of paper and sponges ink onto the surface before removing the top layer of paper with tape. Only ink that is trapped within the deep paper cuts remains visible, along with coils of scrap paper, which Nyandoro often collages onto the work or leaves sprinkled on the floor as indicators of his labour-intensive process.
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