text by Catherine Terblanche | images courtesy: Candice Berman Fine Art Gallery | photographer: Nina Lieska | repro: Pictures
Mfupi’s now signature style of collage came about out of necessity. After graduating, a lack of work and storage space hampered him, as well as the high cost of art materials. His solution was to turn to collage as his medium, using scraps of magazine papers as ‘paint’. Due to the irregular nature of the medium, the resulting artworks have a spontaneous feel to them, which denies the painstaking process of selecting the correct colours and textures needed to build up each image. The act of collage has assumed metaphoric importance in Mfupi’s work. By literally incorporating the very images that shape and influence our daily lives, and recycling them to produce individual responses to everyday events, Mfupi also comments on the consumer society we live in; as well as the process of consumption.
Mfupi’s work was recently showcased at the Cape Town Art Fair as part of the Candice Berman Gallery exhibition stand. His work entitled Rainy Day (2017) depicts a group of people hugging the sidewalk of a crowded road in search of dry space as the rain comes pouring down. Colourful umbrellas jostle for space above the heads of people, while water swirls around their ankles. This work is particularly poignant at a time when South Africa has been in the grips of a devastating drought, the Cape Town area being especially hard hit.
Another work exhibited entitled Life in a Village (2017) also highlights the issue of water supply in the rural areas of South Africa. Three women walk down a road, carrying buckets of water on their heads (a daily chore for many South African women). On the other hand, water becomes a source of joy as perfectly captured in an earlier work entitled Spring Day (2016). The sheer delight a child experiences when confronting the cold-water spray from a hose pipe on a hot spring day is highly contagious, instantly bringing a smile to the viewer’s face. In contrast, the work Days of Wonder (2015) depicts an unusually tranquil moment of children floating serenely in a sea of silver light, seemingly oblivious to the world around them. Water is a recurrent theme in Mfupi’s work, and these works form a statement about how we consume one of our most valuable natural resources.
John Vusi Mfupi is represented by the Candice Berman Gallery in Bryanston, Sandton. For more information visit: candicebermangallery.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Catherine Terblanche is an independent art historian, lecturer and curator.