Kudzanai-Violet Hwami - 20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, December 8, 2020 | Phillips

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  • "I prefer the idea of escaping gently into a daydream, especially one that has the potential to empower you." —Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

    London-based artist Kudzanai-Violet Hwami was born in Zimbabwe and spent six years in South Africa before moving to the UK at the age of seventeen. Pulling from her personal experiences with displacement and a sense of belonging, Hwami’s work draws from archival imagery found on social media and in family photo albums. An intimate example of Hwami’s figurative canvases, Eve on Psilocybin was painted in 2018, just one year before two milestones in the artist’s career – her first institutional solo show held at Gasworks in London and being chosen as one of the artists to represent Zimbabwe at the 58th Venice Biennale. 


    detail of the present lot
    detail of the present lot

    Perception and Identity

    The subject of Eve on Psilocybin reclines nude atop an abstracted background sprinkled with animated pastel-colored flowers. The figure smiles to herself as she cradles the back of her head in pure bliss, residing in her psychedelic garden of Eden. When viewing the comfortable intimacy of the painting, one feels instantly familiar with the subject. Through this subject, Hwami highlights the deceptiveness of outward perception and instant acquaintanceship made possible through social media, presenting a dichotomy of distance and familiarity. The viewer is left to guess the ways in which that might alter the narrative. Hwami says, “I'm using the people in the painting in an authentic way because in a sense I'm removing their identity and creating a dramatization of what might have taken place and what the painting means.” 1

    Although acknowledging that her work inspires political conversation, Hwami wishes to represent the black body apolitically and instead frames her paintings as an easy access point for one to experience it. As a millennial, Hwami grew up in a digital age – using Tumblr and Instagram to both discover and interpret her own gender and sexuality identities. Like the careful curation of social media platforms, her works are very thoughtfully planned despite their gestural qualities.

    Collage to Canvas – A Comment on the Diaspora 

    After collecting personal and publicly shared images, Hwami utilizes digital collage to piece together her vivid paintings. Starting with the background and layering images on top of each other with meticulous care, Hwami then projects the collage on canvas, stressing the importance of the painterly process. Akin to Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines, one of the artist's greatest inspirations, the subject and background of Hwami’s paintings interact and clash with one other in ways that speak to the multi-dimensionality of the artist’s identity.
    "Simultaneously I am experiencing Zimbabwe and South Africa and the UK, in my mind. I’m in the UK, but I carry those places with me everywhere I go." —Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

    Hwami journeyed to Zimbabwe in 2018 to attend a residency program within a spiritual-based artist community. Rather than finding comfort in a place she once called home, the artist lacked a sense of belonging, “reminding us that much of what Hwami once saw of her birthplace on a regular basis was through a backlit screen.”2 As such, the memories and media-lensed view of various cultures and environments that culminate Hwami’s identity seem to be unearthed in the layers and abstraction in works such as Eve on Psilocybin


    Property Sold to Benefit the Cuperior Residency, Berlin


    The idea for the Cuperior Residency in Berlin was born out of the Cuperior Collection of contemporary art, founded by Oliver Elst in 2016. Through 3-month residencies followed by solo exhibitions, the Cuperior Residency’s goal will be to support young, emerging artists by providing an international platform from which to develop their practices and increase their art world presence. Phillips will donate a portion of the revenue from the sale of this Lot directly to the Cuperior Residency, and is pleased to support this initiative and the artists it will support.


    1. Kudzanai-Violet Hwami quoted in, Michael Armitage, “Michael Armitage and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami on Painting”, Ocula, November 15, 2019, online
    2. Lizzy Vartanian Collier, “Painting Home, When It Won’t Let You Stay”, Hyperallergic, November 28, 2019, online

    • Provenance

      Tyburn Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Les Ateliers de Rennes, Biennale d’art contemporain, September 29 - December 2, 2018

    • Literature

      Isis Davis-Marks, "These Emerging Black Artists Are the Future of Figurative Painting", Artsy, February 11, 2020, online

Property Sold to Benefit the Cuperior Residency, Berlin


Eve on Psilocybin

oil on canvas
51 1/8 x 54 3/8 in. (129.9 x 138.1 cm)
Painted in 2018.

A portion of Phillips’ revenue for this Lot will benefit the Cuperior Residency, Berlin.

Full Cataloguing

$30,000 - 40,000 

Sold for $252,000

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York

1 212 940 1250

20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session

New York 8 December 2020