Gedion Nyanhongo listens as he frees images from the rock
August 21, 2015
Before sculptor Gedion Nyanhongo begins a piece, he listens to what the stone wants him to do.
"Sometimes the stone gives me two to three options," Nyanhongo said during a telephone interview from his studio in Sedona, Arizona. "Sometimes I have to revisit a stone maybe three times before I start taking anything off, because I want to be sure I know which option is the best."
The Zimbabwe-born Nyanhongo will be at Lunds Fine Art, 591 Main St., next Thursday, Friday and Saturday, to share his culture and demonstrate his sculpting methods.
"When I sculpt, I use hand tools and don’t use power tools," he said. "I know that’s a primitive way of creating beauty, but this is an original way to do it. This way, I don’t lose touch with my medium and it’s a way for me to not dictate what I want to create, but a way for the stone to tell me what it wants me to do."
Nyanhongo has created works that are seen throughout the world including Germany, Holland, South Africa and in the United States.
His outdoor installations can be seen at the Atlanta Airport, the Phoenix Zoo and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center as well as in private collections around the country.
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"My favorite medium is called spring stone," he said. "It is harder than marble and there can be as many as three colors in one stone, depending on how you finish it.
The color contrasts and the texture contrasts with spring stone will capture your eye and attention.
"If you are using marble, which is white, you can leave some texture or leave some of the natural finish or you can smooth out some of the areas," Nyanhongo said. "However, the contrast isn’t as pronounced because the marble is really only one color."
The artist also works with opal.
"That is a very harmonic stone and it is green," he said. "It is more like marble, but is more of a muddy sedimentary rock that is a little more softer and giving, but very beautiful."
Once Nyanhongo begins chipping away at the stone, he begins to see what the image is going to be. Sometimes that becomes a challenge.
"This is where the process starts to evolve," he said. "That’s when I know I need to go with the flow, because the stone is talking to me again. I listen and let my self grow with it, so, in a sense, I become part of the stone."
At that moment, if it’s the right decision, Nyanhongo will lose all sense of his surroundings.
"I will forget my name," he said. "I will forget where I am and what I’m doing. I also forget to eat.
"The next thing I know is that I wake up from whatever I was doing and step back and look and ask myself, ‘How did I ever come up with this idea?’ ‘How did I come to make a piece like this?’" Nyanhongo said. "It’s like waking up from a dream."
Nyanhongo began sculpting because of his father, Claude, who is a renowned sculptor in Zimbabwe.
"He’s the man," Nyanhongo said. "He is my teacher and my mentor and he’s part of the first generation that came up with this kind of work that creates art from materials they could find around them."
Nyanhongo remembered meeting many of his father’s clients.
"That intrigued me so much that at the age of 9, I had my first sale," Nyanhongo said. "The piece was of a moon head with a smiling face, and I showed it alongside my father’s works."
During the exhibit, two art collectors from Toronto and Hong Kong told Nyanhongo that if he ever decided to do art, he would become one of the best.
"I didn’t know what they were talking about," the sculptor said. "All I knew was that I had this passion for creating and pulling the spirit out of the stones.
"This is the only thing that you can add beauty by subtracting," he said. "We build houses and apply paint, but with stone, you take something away to make something beautiful."
The subjects Nyanhongo finds himself creating are of love and family.
"The works include the natural forms of the stone themselves, but it is also influenced by my upbringing," he said. "I come from a big family. I grew up knowing how to share, how to support one another and how to love each other. I also grew up learning how to forgive and solve problems
"Those pieces you see in my work are from pages of my heart and mind," Nyanhongo explained. "You can read my personality from them. I can only use stone because it’s a medium that will be here thousands of years after we’re gone. This is something we can pass down from generation to generation."
The artist’s goal is simple.
"I like to document the age, times and history of the strength of our imagination of this time by pulling out the spirit of the stone and unleash it," he said. "The images should speak for themselves. I’m only the one who releases them."
Releasing the images from the stones has helped Nyanhongo create a fulfilling livelihood.
"The first reward is that the piece makes me happy when I finish it," he said. "It makes me want to do more. It makes me want to go back and look for another stone."
The second reward is knowing someone else will see the work.
"It’s when that person walks by and understands what is going on and feels the art," he said.
The third reward is financial, Nyanhongo said with a laugh.
"It’s when someone says, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’ve got to have this’ and then I get money to send my kids to school," he said.
Gedion Nyanhongo will demonstrate his sculpting at Lund’s Fine Art, 591 Main St., on Thursday, Aug. 27, from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. and Friday, Aug. 28, and Saturday, Aug. 29, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.lundsfineartgallery.com.
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