Charmaine Chanakira uses her expressive narrative art to respond to her experiences as a black woman born in Zimbabwe and now living in London. Sometimes the story she tells is deeply personal, but at other times the narrative is broader, as she explores an emotional reaction to the wider world of politics, social justice or contemporary culture.
Working in a combination of acrylic paint, oil pastels and pen, Chanakira draws on primitivism and symbolism to create an intriguing encounter with colour and texture. Some pieces work together to create an inscription or, as she describes it, a secret code. These messages are deliberately hidden by the artist and it is left to the viewer to uncover them if they can, adding an additional layer of intrigue to the work. Other works are more straightforward - exhilarating tangles of shapes, outlines and vibrant colour-blocks which represent the artist’s emotions, showing us both what is going on in her head and in her heart. Her intention is to surprise her audience and to reflect our own characteristics back at us, from the wild to the thoughtful to the vulnerable.
As an individual Charmaine Chanakira shies away from attention and is more of a listener than a talker, but with her art she has found an authentic and powerful voice. She paints, she says, ‘big and bright’ as a means of commanding attention for the things she cares about without having to take centre stage in person. She is an introvert, but her art is her extrovert side and tells the truth – her truth.