What happens if one lives or grows up in a town that has no art supplies store? Does one forget about being an artist? For Gareth Nyandoro, that meant using whatever scrap, found materials he can to make sculptures and other crafts, coming from an arts and crafts family in rural Zimbabwe, and is reflected in his earlier sculptural pieces.
Of note from this period of time is Don Quixote (2006), a reference to the story of someone who, after reading lots of chivalric romance novels, got the idea that he too could become a knight and go around comically, delusionally undoing wrongs and ‘save the world’. The novel caused quite a rift among intellectuals in that while most agreed that Don Quixote was delusional, an insane character rendered useless by common reality, some thought his idealist nobility was worth commending. The question is: why did Nyandoro choose this theme? Does he see himself as a knight, riding out to ‘save the world’ or as an idealist operating out of foolishness in a world that’s too practical to care?
Nyandoro subsequently invented a technique derived from his time of study as a print-maker, of cutting grooves into layers of paper, smearing printing ink onto it, peeling and scraping back some of the layers to expose that which has seeped underneath and drawing on top of it. He calls this process ‘kucheka cheka’ which means ‘cutting the cut’, and is used in his recent large scale artwork-installations, which incidently defy any conventional categorical naming; they aren’t paintings but drawings done in the size of paintings and often incorporate found objects which break out of the 2-dimensional plane and become drawing-sculpture installations.
There is a conscious attempt to incorporate elements of realism in Gareth Nyandoro’s artworks, where objects pertinent to the subject scene are taken and added to the installation, which allows a feeling of the place, while the visual art itself is fragmented and abstract, with long folds and cuts dividing the composition into sections. In Set Up Shop (2014) and No Serious Assault At The Police And The Council Wants To Close The Market (2014), even trash is used, presumably because there is a lot of trash in these markets, places where people sell their wares.
And just to drive the point home, the sculpture Where The Nation Shops And Saves (2015) is literally bowls of shredded, trash paper and discarded items with the bowl in the middle itself broken to pieces; it suggests that people in the nation buy trashy items to save money, even 2nd hand sneakers, but it also points to failed economic policies, corruption and other problems of the Government. I don’t think Nyandoro went to art school intending to make political statements, but unfortunately as long as politics impacts life, art and politics cannot be separated.
So is Nyandoro a knight ‘out to save the world’ or is he a foolish idealist? It is ambiguous, but I’d say both.