The Physics of a Portrait
Created through a similar process to that of a physicist pulling apart observable aspects of reality to reveal elements concealed from everyday perception, Mbongeni Fakudze’s portraits are a spontaneous and expressive, with the vivid application of colour resulting in an abstraction of shape and form.
“I have always seen the world through the microscopic eye of an atomic physicist and simultaneously the cosmic eye of an astrophysicist. I am fascinated by the nature of the physical world in which we live. Finding that it may look solid from a distance but dissolve or disintegrate into particles as you get closer and closer . . . The question becomes: What is reality?” Fakudze muses.
Fakudze has always had a natural attraction towards both schools of thought: art and science. “I was a bit of a nerd in my school days – but a cool one with nappy hair,” Fakudze jokes. In high school he developed a serious interest in art when he discovered the biographies of a variety of European artists. “I always enjoyed drawing and was told I was good at it. To know that I could make it a career was just too enticing. My family was relatively supportive of my artistic dreams. But not knowing much about the field – and coming from a country which does not properly recognise the value of art – they did not know what to do with my talent,” Fakudze explains.
Not having a relevant course available to him in his home country of Swaziland, and having developed a determination to do what he loved, Fakudze enrolled for a Fine Arts Degree through the University of South Africa in Pretoria. After completing his degree, Fakudze dabbled in surrealism, influenced by the works of Magritte, Dalí, and Duchamp. He later experimented with the digital manipulation of photographs combined with overlaid acrylic paint.
Fakudze moved to Johannesburg twoand-a-half years ago to pursue his career further. The change of scenery brought with it a change in creative thought, moving his attention towards the expressive nature of the human form. “I was looking for a looser technique, which I found in abstract expressive portraiture,” he says.
When asked why he chooses portraits as his means of artistic expression, Fakudze explains: “It stems from my love of the complexities of the human face and figure. It is able not only to create emotions, but also to tell a certain human story. Usually in the female portraits I create, the figures tend to have a regality. Being raised by a strong and respectable high achiever of a mother, I feel I subconsciously see her strength in these women that I create.”
Most of the faces he paints are fictional creations inspired by real people. “They are a combination of people I know, and some of them are hybrid characters that come more from my own mind than from my experiences. In my paintings, I tend to