23 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Art Lovers Gather At Robert Paul's Old House

Last Saturday, Gallery Delta invited the world and his wife to 'have a drink, converse with friends and relax', while viewing 'Select Collection', an exhibition of Zimbabwean paintings, graphics, sculptures and ceramics.

Guests converged at Robert Paul's Old House, 110 Livingstone Avenue, which has been the Gallery's home since it moved from Strachan's Building in the CBD in the early 1990s.

Gallery Delta has been nurturing and inspiring the Zimbabwean art world since 1975 so it seems fitting that the gallery, now classified as a foundation for art and the humanities, should occupy the former home of one of Zimbabwe's leading artists. An abstract artist, Robert Paul and his family occupied their house from 1930 until the artist's death in 1980.

Robert Paul joined the Rhodesian police force in 1932, but in 1951 became a full time painter. According to his daughter, Collette Wiles, her most vivid memory of the artist is of him dressed in a paint-spattered dressing gown, in front of his easel on the verandah. If his muse deserted him in the morning, he would dress and meet friends at the club for a few drinks, returning invigorated by lunchtime.

As he gazed out at the overgrown garden in front of his verandah, he could never have imagined the manicured lawns or the scores of artists and art lovers that would frequent his house when it transformed into Gallery Delta.

One of the most attractive works of art on display last weekend was 'Our Home' by Richard Witikani. Born in Wedza in 1967, Witikani studied art at the BAT Workshop, and later taught art at Girls High School, Harare.

He has exhibited extensively at home and abroad and his brightly coloured abstract landscapes, inspired by the countryside in which he grew up, never fail to delight. Equally at home with figure drawing, Witikani's study entitled 'Lynett and Priscilla' captures the despondency these two young women feel as they sit outside, hunched up, waiting for something to happen. The artist, who now lives in the city, is working from his Hatfield studio on a new solo exhibition.

Bulawayo-born Berry Bickle, best known for her award winning installations, video and photography, is also a talented ceramicist.

The abstract designs of the delicate porcelain bowls on exhibition catch the eye, while the fragments of scripts scrawled on the curved surfaces challenge the intellect. Like many Zimbabwean artists, her emotions are bound up with the legacy of colonialism in Southern Africa.

Kate Raath, who was raised on a cattle farm in Masvingo, finds the Gutu/Chatsworth area a source of inspiration for her landscape and tree studies. Working in oils, acrylic, charcoal, pen, pencil and gouache, her masterly style is unique and instantly recognisable, and art collectors should pay close attention to this highly collectible artist.

'Pandaza' by Portia Zvavahera is a perfectly balanced abstract composition depicting three women of the Vapostori sect. Seated in a sacred place, they anxiously await spiritual prophecies and the foretelling of their futures. Paintings by Zvavahera and her contemporary, Virginia Chihota (also exhibiting) lend gravitas to any exhibition.

By the end of the day, not only had several works of art been sold, but artists and art lovers had admired the exhibition, exchanged news, discussed their plans for the coming year, and spent several hours in the most congenial of atmospheres. Robert Paul would have been delighted to host such a gathering.

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