Sky Salanje is a prolific commentator on Zimbabweans, ranging from those in his immediate neighbourhood to public figures, from friends and neighbours to priests and politicians. Obsessed with portraiture, real or imagined, his works – whether in miniature or on large canvases – shed light on individual personalities and the quirks of human nature. They also cumulatively build a narrative of the moral economy, normative attitudes and behavioural modes of a country with a complex socio-political history.
In one moment Salanje might make us think of expressionists Jawlensky or Munch. At the same time, he employs a palette and brushstroke that is clearly embedded in the contemporary art scene of Zimbabwe, and delivers a rich and unique style. Some of Salanje’s portraiture appears benign or even complimentary. Yet even in those paintings which flatter, especially those of women, their boldly coloured, enticing lips dangle question marks about their integrity. Other portraits are melancholic, whilst others still are distinctly ghoulish: something within them or their environment melts their features, turning them into plasticised and horrifying versions of their former selves, perhaps signalling moral pollution or other dis-ease. Salanje does not draw boundaries to his commentary, speaking implicitly and explicitly on religion, politics and human vices, as well as everyday relationships.
Born in 1992 in Mutare, Zimbabwe, Salanje has exhibited widely via Zimbabwe’s leading exhibition platforms including Gallery Delta, First Floor Gallery Harare and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. He has also shown with Guns & Rain at the Turbine Art Fair and in group shows in Johannesburg. He holds a certificate in Fine Arts from National Gallery of Zimbabwe Visual Art Studio. He will have a solo exhibition with Guns & Rain in May 2018.
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