Rice Lake XI

140PlayfulFish_JosephChigangaidze.jpgPlayful Fish, Joseph Chigangaidze

Once again I find myself in the car with my mom blasting along the country roads of the Eastern Townships. This time we are headed for a very unique art gallery. The Rice Lake Gallery was founded in 2000 by Fran Fearnley and represents over 50 Zimbabwean stone sculptors. The entire exhibit is outside.

We crawl in the long dirt driveway. Glimpses of stone shine through the trees as we pass. We park our car in a field and we open the car doors to the sound of

African music, murmuring visitors and crickets.

126AscendingAngel.jpgAscending Angel, Givemore Mashaya, Cobalt

As we pass through the entrance way (a tall hedge with a gap) we are greated by Ascending Angel. She is glorious in her movement, her colour and her posture. Behind her are tree stumps on which are displayed more sculptures. It is rustic and bohemian, a gallery you can truly roam through.

128RestingTogether copy.jpgResting Together, Kenneth Chidharara, Nyanga Serpentine

Zimbabwean stone sculpture is called Shona which is also the name of the largest tribe involved in this indigenous form of art. Dzimbadzamabwe or Zimbabwe means great stone house or house of stone in the Shona language. Zimbabwe has the largest supply of stone suitable for carving in Africa.

It is cool and damp as we walk through the fields, at times we feel a few light rain drops. The stones are incredible to touch, so soft, so smooth, some feel as though you are touching water.

130Queen_WalterMariga_Lepodolite.jpgQueen, Walter Mariga, Lepodolite

Under a spruce tree in the gardens Givemore Mashaya, the 2010 artist-in-residence, is working on a piece as a demonstration of his art form. We watch as he heats the stone with a blowtorch and then uses a paintbrush to buff the details out of the rock.

132Givemore_Working.jpgGivemore Mashaya at work

Some of the sculptures are massive (6 feet tall). Others can fit in the palm of your hand. My eye is caught by the twisting necks of giraffes and I stare wondering how these gentle beasts were coaxed out of such mass. How does the artist see what needs to be pulled out? How does it speak to them?

134OneLove_BiggieChikodzi_Opal.jpgOne Love, Biggie Chikodzi, Opal

I am fascinated by sculpture. It is as if a living thing has been captured in mid-being, frozen for eternity. When I look at a sculpture I feel as though I must speak softly, like I might wake the dead if I speak too sharply. I hope for sculptures that they have been captured in a moment that is fulfilling. What hell to be captured in a moment one wishes to forget.


Welcoming You, Givemore Mashaya, Springstone

What was so surprising was these sculpture were all carved from Zimbabwean stone but the texture, pattern and colour of each stone was remarkably different from the next. According to http://www.mineralszone.com "the stone used by Zimbabwean sculptors is unique in the world in the range of colours that can be found in veins of rock that are literally next to one another in the earth: shades of avocado, pomegranate, granadilla, lemon, peach, plum, grape and mulberry."

Each sculpture noted the type of stone that was used. This too was fascinating. Names I recognized such as Opal and Cobalt but also stones such as Lepodolite, Springstone and Serpentine which is the most commonly used stone and the stone with the widest variety of colour. http://www.mineralszone.com discusses the healing usage of serpentine; "it aids the clearing of blocked areas, brings the chakras back in balance and also is very beneficial for the heart chakra. Its properties promotes good luck and helps people in achieving their dreams and desires."
138JosephChigangaidze_GivemoreMashaya.jpgLeft: Young Dyuiker, JosephChigangaidze, Fruit Serpentine. Right: Resting Bird, Givemore Mashaya, Fruit Serpentine

The intrigue for me was in the highly stylized designs of these sculptures, simplified graphic statements in 3D. On Monday evenings I teach a class called Visual Forces at OCADU. This class shows the connection between 2D design and 3D design and it is co-taught by a 2D designer (me) and a 3D designer (my colleague Marco Jacob). I look at these sculptures and see a symmetry in what I talk about once a week.
 142ProtectingMyFamily.jpgProtecting My Family, Ekel Nyamandhoro, Serpentine

Driving back to Toronto I think about this gem of a gallary hidden along a country road. I think back to my trip to the Toronto Island to visit with a local assemblage artist, and to a sleepy little town where a woman has turned her house into a work of art. What an incredible journey I have started out on. And what incredible things I have seen in just two months.



Rice Lake Gallery – http://www.zimart.ca/

Click here for a look at last year's ZimArt opening party: