“There is movement in the line. There is space in the line. There is light in the line. There is freedom in the line.” --Percy Manyonga
Percy-Nal marks Percy Manyonga’s first solo exhibition at Post Studio. The selection of works in this exhibition present the artist’s fantastical exploration in the expressive capacity of lines, with ink, (un)woven kotali (sewing thread) as well as potato net bags. Combining abstraction and figuration, the artist plays with the lines to sketch a figure with emotion, to visualise the sense of weight by overlaying monochromatic lines, or to depict the state of motion with multicolour threads. As the first exhibition featuring all line works, Percy-Nal unfolds Manyonga’s recent adventure in visual language and style which is distinct from his early small acrylic portraits. What is consistent throughout his oeuvre, however, is his concern about human condition, of which the focus has been shifted from the social spectacles in Zimbabwe to the depth of inner self in these works.
The title Percy-Nal, blending his first name and the word “personal”, speaks out his intension to meditate on his personal experiences over the specific decade of the 2000s. It is a time of self-doubt as a player in the artistic industry, entangled with domestic calamity as well as the social crisis in Zimbabwe. The artists went into deep Contemplation, questioned if the life stage is Tailor Made or What?, and then determinedly said no with a red flag. It is thus also a time of self-affirmation, with the Wish to Fly, the Searching for a key to life and the action of turning Mvemve (Rags) into Iphupho (Dreams) through creativity.
It is intriguing that Manyonga created most of these line works about his personal frustration and aspiration during the global crisis of our time today, the COVID-19 pandemic. As an artist, Manyonga rediscovers himself through the rediscovery of a specific visual language—the lines, which was initially inspired by a teacher in 1994 when he was studying at the National Gallery BAT Workshop School (now the National Gallery School of Visual Art and Design). He now holds confidently the key of a still developing unique visual language with a sense of humour and playfulness, which is embodied in the disproportionate figures, the clumsy limbs and also the cluttered lines with splashed ink.
A crisis is a portal. What can we, then, make of this portal and this artistic contemplation of time and human condition? “If you look at it, that freedom, that you can see in the work”, the artist says, “It is actually breathing”. Breathing. Yes. That is all we need at this moment, as individuals, and as a community on the same planet.
(Text by Lifang Zhang)