First Floor Gallery (FFG) artist Wycliffe Mundopa won the Villa Lena Residency for his exceptional work showcased last month at Art 16 in London. The residency means that Mundopa will spend three months at a historic Italian villa in Tuscany, giving him an opportunity to tackle new work and engage with other artists from different parts of the world who are also in residency at the villa.
Speaking to Harare News about this landmark achievement, Mundopa said, “It will be sort of educational – I will be going out of Africa for the first time. I’m not sure what to expect, but I will be open to suggestions. I look forward to the residency being a part of my learning experiences. Being awarded this residency gives me a lot of confidence that I can make it, because sometimes you feel like ‘I’m not doing this right’. It’s actually very encouraging.” Mundopa begins his residency Villa Lena in September and finishes in November.
First Floor Gallery (FFG) director Valerie Kabov said, “This residency comes at an important time in the development of an artist like Wycliffe. After several years of very intense development and being focused on responding to life in Harare, this will be a chance to take a step back and also think of his work in the context of broader history and art history in particular.”
Kabov explained that the villa is close to Florence and Rome, cities with renowned museums and historic monuments. “Painting is such a complex and evolved medium that even after painting for more than a decade, there is still a lot to learn from direct experience,” said Kabov.
Art 16 is part of the annual art fair which takes place in London. 2016 was the first year that FFG took part. FFG were also part of the 1:54 (an Africa-focused art fair) in 2013 and 2014 – also in London. They were however, the only gallery from Africa out of over 100 international exhibitors at Art 16.
“We are a contemporary art gallery and our artists are very much focused on being seen as peers in the international community. This is why exhibiting at an international fair rather than at geographically focused ones is important to us,” said Kabov.
Earlier this year, FFG presented Wycliffe Mundopa at the invitation only Volta New York exhibition, an important step in gaining broad, international recognition. “Our view is that we work with world-class artists, whose work stands up really well in any context and this is exactly what we found at Art16,” she said.
Another Harare artist at Art 16 was Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude, who along with Mundopa was listed by leading international market website Artsy.com as one of the top ten artists at the fair. Nyaude was also a finalist for the Villa Lena residency.
“We know that everything that Wycliffe learns through the residency he will share with his fellow artists in our stable, especially because over the past couple of years, Chinembiri studios, (the studio where he works), has been supporting and mentoring younger artists, who are recent graduates,” said Kabov.
“We are extremely proud of all our artists. Supporting their growth and success is what we are all about. Wycliffe’s achievements as an artist give us more confidence and encouragement to go on and to reach higher.”
FFG will continue presenting their artists on different international platforms. “We will be taking part in the Johannesburg Art Fair in September as well as in a new art fair focusing on African contemporary art in Paris called AKAA (Also Known As Africa) in November,” she added.
“We are also collaborating with Hazard Gallery in Johannesburg to present a women-only group exhibition in October with Mavis Tauzeni, Helen Teede, Miriro Mwandiambira, and Laurent Webber: four emerging women artists representing different aspects of what it means to be a young, Zimbabwean woman today.”
Image: Visual artists Wycliffe Mundopa alongside one of his paintings.