Fungai Benhura, Stella Vine
Curated by Dan Howard Birt
21 September – 19 October 2019
Thurs – Sat 12 – 6pm
Kingsgate Project Space
110-116 Kingsgate Road
London NW6 2JG
+44 (0)20 7328 7878
What the surface to be painted onto is and how that surface might behave while the painting is being made is essential in these recent works by Stella Vine and Fungai Benhura.
In Stella’s paintings the wet, loaded brush touches the paper surface and as this soft impact is made it ruins it. There is a tension held in the newsprint, albeit a provisional tension of woodpulp fibres, sufficient only to carry printed news information for a day or two. But now this tension dissolves. The paper puckers; it wrinkles. Not catastrophically; the object is not threatened to collapse in on itself, but the consequence of the painter’s action causes the substrate to breathe and to stretch as it becomes wet. And then the drying comes, binding the paper inseparably with a chalky skin of paint matter. As more brushed touches bend and form the nascent geometry of soft pinks and dusty blues toward a motif, the paper keeps giving – rumpling and warping a little less each time perhaps, but it goes on. In this re-formed state, the newsprint paper substrate holds the quiet breath that its arrangements of diagonals, spirals and arching curves breathe.
Abstraction-and-spirituality in (especially womens’) painting is too crass and complicated a lineage to position these modest objects within. And yet, look, here is a niche holding the Sacred Heart; here are the rays of a golden aureola; here is the feeling of the host melting onto the outstretched tongue. These are paintings to be intimate with and to be still with.
A dense weight of black, shot through with glimpses of solid primary hues and a churning mass of discarded stuff, give a heavy presence to Fungai’s painting and announces that a very different energy resides in each scar and rupture. The physicality and exertion of his making-action “… [as] different layers of materials on canvas and paper: leaflets, plastic, tissue paper, Indian ink, acrylic paint, beer cans and tops and more stuff”* all force the substrate to take the strain, the blows, the grindings-back. Unlike the delicacy of Stella’s wet touch onto her quiet autophagous pages, the vulnerabilities of these painting-objects’ are not like tiny breaths, held. Here they feel like great lungfuls of oxygen hastily sucked down. And this urgently imbibed air has centred and stabilised the object, scars and all.
As the eyes traverse Fungai’s dense surfaces they become caught on each raw edge prompting a diving-down into each rough chasm before ascending again to skim back-and-forth hungrily across the broader scored and scorched topography.
Stella Vine is best known as a painter of images which are drawn from the urgent and desperate culture of interdependence and mutual exploitation (Princess Diana, Kate Moss, Kurt Cobain) that hums along the wires of our prurient lives. These paintings then fed straight back and became the embodiment of that collective panic. Stella now lives and works is Ibiza, though some of these newest works were made at Kingsgate Workshops in summer 2019.
Fungai Benhura graduated BA Drawing at Camberwell UAL in 2019, he lives and works in London and is beginning to exhibit widely.
* Fungai Benhura in an email exchange with Dan Howard-Birt.
All photos by Tim Bowditch 2019