Windhoek’s 2023 visual arts calendar opened to a full house and with the blessing of rain as artists Namafu Amutse and Candice Mouton took centre stage at The Village Opera House on Friday last week.
Presenting a vivid collection of photography and painting as the first exhibition of StArt Art Gallery’s renewed ‘Side by Side’ series, the young artists drew a stylish crowd of fellow artists, film-makers, friends and family to the minimalist gallery.
“The premise of the ‘Side by Side’ exhibition series is juxtaposition,” says StArt Art Gallery. “By placing two artists’ work side by side, we bring them into proximity, presenting interesting dialogues and creating space for unique interpretations.”
In the case of Amutse and Mouton, the idea of standing side by side extends to their real lives, in which they are old friends. Both self-taught artists considering their subjects’ inner worlds as they navigate the expectations, stereotypes, realities and supposed limitations of gender and adulthood, Amutse and Mouton each connect their work to childhood.
Incorporating flowers, bright colours, bees, balloons, clouds and cartoonish typography reminiscent of childhood contrasted with her pensive protagonists, Mouton meshes the moods of pop art and surrealism tosignify the challenges, anxiety, gravity and the blooming of coming of age in acrylic on canvas.
“When creating my work, my goal is to produce art that depicts the obstacles and challenges of growing up and being an adult against the backdrop of a child’s mind where wonder and dreams are born,” says Mouton.
Amutse, who dedicates her photographic series to her brothers, who are also the subjects, considers the joy of childlike play, the intimacy of brotherhood and the multifaceted nature of masculinity in a striking collection shot beside the sea at Swakopmund.
“The visuals that we often encounter concerning Black boys and Black men portray the constant stereotypes of violence, aggression and hypersexualisation, dehumanising the Black man and making him feel as if he is a one-dimensional being in a world where it is so clear that his existence is multifaceted,” says Amutse.
In a series titled ‘Chrysalis’, Amutse underscores the change in how we perceive masculinity and the evolution occurring in young Black boys and men by draping her brothers in cloth, connoting a chrysalis which will eventually grow into a moth or a butterfly.
With their protagonists set in and set free by nature and concerned with the liminal space between childhood and adulthood, Amutse and Mouton exhibit side by side with focus, ambition and growing confidence in their respective visual languages.
Somewhat of a professional debut for a promising Mouton and an auspicious offering from the flourishing Amutse, the latter opened the exhibition with appreciation for the audience.
“Your continuous support of artists in this country is one of the many reasons we won’t stop creating. You keep this space alive and you remind us constantly that it matters,” said Amutse.
“I hope that our work inspires you and takes you to a place of peace and tranquility.”
‘Side by Side’ is currently on display at StArt Art Gallery at The Village Opera House on Liliencron Street in Windhoek. Amutse and Mouton will host a free art talk at the venue at 10h00 on Saturday, 18 February.
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