until 27.05. | #3847ARTatBerlin | Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin presents from 29. April 2023 the exhibition “Wandering in the Unknown World” of the artist Kimathi Mafafo.
A woman emerges from a garden-like environment filled with plants and flowers: In this fluid, magical space, the human body and nature are interwoven; flowers trace a pattern on the woman’s skin, while organic shapes and lush textures swirl around her. This new series of works by South African Kimathi Mafafo was created during what she describes as “a wonderful period of connectedness,” when her intuitive and collaborative approach to art-making allowed her to escape the chaos and anxieties of everyday life. Mafafo’s solo exhibition at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin, titled Wandering in the Unknown World, draws on the philosophies of Romanticism, which emerged in the 18th century, and celebrates the wayward, mystical forces of nature and art.
Over the past three years, Mafafo has collaborated with two women whom she trained in embroidery and who come from different cultural backgrounds – one is Zimbabwean, the other Xhosa [a South African ethnicity]. Although Mafafo designs the compositions for her textiles based on her personal experiences, memories and emotional states, the three women create the works together, each bringing her own individual style of expression. “The same stitch done by a different hand is different,” Mafafo explains. “We have different bodies, techniques and rhythms.” All of this, translated through the yarns, results in richly textured surfaces that speak of kinship, femininity and cross-cultural connection.
In many ways, the woman who appears in almost all of Mafafo’s works-albeit in different guises-is representative of the creative dialogue that takes place in the studio, as well as a carrier of emotional and spiritual energies. In one work, she appears as a goddess-like figure in a billowing blue dress amidst a swirling cosmos of colorful plants and patterns. Here, as in the other works, the space surrounding her is undefined – she is unbound, she is floating, but it is a state associated with both joy and tranquility. She looks upward, directly at the viewers, with a serene and almost defiant expression; in turn, in the works titled Emerging into Self III and IV, her eyes are closed, as if she were lost in deep contemplation. The latter works in particular reflect the therapeutic and transformative effects of creating and experiencing art; they can serve as portals to another world and provide access to other ways of seeing and feeling. The intertwined tendrils of rope that appear in many of the works, in which two colors are linked together, are both lifelines and symbols of togetherness and protection.
For this exhibition, Mafafo has also returned to painting, the medium in which she was originally trained but which she abandoned in favor of textile works – “I push myself not to leave it behind,” she says. Interestingly, the female figure in these works seems more youthful and almost girlish in her posture, perhaps alluding to the freedom that comes with naivety, while the white flowers have a translucent, spectral quality, sometimes losing their form and seemingly dissolving into her body. This fluid, harmonious relationship with nature is in keeping with the spirit of Romanticism, as well as with the many women artists throughout history who have sought inspiration, healing and enlightenment in nature. For Mafafo, the unknown represents possibility, and it is this – a joyful sense of expansiveness – that we feel most strongly in her work.
Opening: Friday, 28. April 2023, 6 pm – 9 pm
Exhibition Dates: Saturday, 29. April until Saturday, 27. May 2023
Image caption: Kimathi Mafafo, Emerging Into Self V, 2023, Hand and Machine Stitched Embroidery on Fabric, 69 x 65 cm
Exhibition Kimathi Mafafo – Kristin Hjellegjerde Berlin | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Ausstellungen Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin