ARMA GALLERY - Contemporary Art - Wycliffe Mundopa Solo Show - Madrid 2024 - 04

Pleasures of Body Painting: Exploring the Sensual Imagery of Wycliffe Mundopa

At the end of Balzac’s “The Unknown Masterpiece,” the painting that Frenhofer has created of the beautiful nude model is finally revealed, and the surprise is terrible: the desire to see unveils a “wall of paint,” a crazed tangle of gestures that seem to bury a real foot, the trace of a lost body. This tale tells of a modern mutation of Pygmalionism and also anticipates the abstract dynamics of the avant-garde that will complicate the “embodiment of painting.” Some vehemently resisted this dissolution of the figure into Neoplasticist geometrization or into the raw nihilism of Malevich’s black square. Undoubtedly, Picasso, with his obsession with the theme of the “painter and the model,” was able to sediment turbulent desires in his works, fearlessly delving into the “metaphysical brothel.”

Wycliffe Mundopa has found an intense style that allows him to unleash his corporeal imagination. This artist from Zimbabwe splendidly dialogues with the visions of women by Toulouse-Lautrec or with the chromatic passion of the Fauves and, especially, with Matissean sensuality, but without losing sight of the everyday life in which he lives. In a certain sense, Mundopa embodies the virtues of aesthetic globalization, without losing the local breath, making the modern tradition his own with a carefree or, better, playful attitude.

ARMA GALLERY - Contemporary Art - Wycliffe Mundopa Solo Show - Madrid 2024 - 12

This extremely vitalistic artist paints mothers and children, prostitutes, and people he encounters on the street, but above all, he enjoys giving corporeality to colors. The sexual impulsivity of the images goes beyond the anecdote to impose itself as a free exercise of fantasy; it is no coincidence that some of the works presented by ARMA Gallery in 2021 are titled Fantasy: women dressed or semi-nude with clothes and stockings of splendid designs, with their legs in contortions that incite pleasure, vibrant colors backgrounds and figures that leave behind any mimetic academic realism.

Mundopa’s paintings, made with oil and spray, undoubtedly emerge from an imagination that is joyfully spontaneous and, at the same time, determined by an impressive compositional mastery. In a large-format work like “Sharing The News” (2023), he is able to “fit in” and liberate the figures without suffocating each other, punctuating details as amusing as that of the cat lying down as if it were the emperor of the carnival scene. Animals and, especially, dogs appear, for example, in “Imaginary Friend” (2023) or in “Who Will Buy 2” (2023) as, paradoxically, notes of “humanization” where pleasure is marked by the dominance of money and dignity is called into question.

Wycliffe Mundopa’s gaze is fundamentally passionate and tender, leaving aside the nihilism of bitter truths or the judgmental attitude towards others’ existence. What he paints is the world around him, and he knows that he does not intend to “exoticize” it; on the contrary, he wants to convey the desiring pulse that survives there. An impressive work like “Mask” (2022) functions as a “deconstruction” of the avant-garde use of the (supposedly) primitive, also escaping from decontextualizing formalism. The figures seem to dance, stir, come to life like Pigmalion’s creature, transmitting an untimely energy that incites our gaze to escape from banal inertia. Perhaps Mundopa suggests in “Feeding the Ego” (2023) that we have to “feed” ourselves with what seems strange to us, strip ourselves of prejudices, and try to enjoy what is different. The vibrant body of painting seems to wink at us, promising pleasures that are not forbidden.

Fernando Castro Flórez.

The exhibition will take place at ARMA Gallery located at C. de Valverde, 30. Entreplanta derecha. Madrid, Spain. The opening is scheduled for Wednesday, February 28th, starting at 7 pm. Following the opening, the gallery will be open from Monday to Friday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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