Michele Mathison


Contemporary Southern Africa forms an example of a distinct, and new social condition. One in which political and social borders define different political incarnations of African democracy and creates a vast transient community of displaced. Michele Mathison (b. 1977) currently lives and works on both sides of the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

His sculptures are a study on the value of familiar objects and how they have developed into the prevalent imagery and symbols of sub-Saharan Africa’s post-independent condition. By removing the utility from everyday tools and decaying urban infrastructure, Mathison presents the irony of their transformation into symbolic guises.

Examining the form and function of quotidian objects, Mathison builds geometric groups and visual fields. Considering how an individual piece relates to the whole, his work creates a narrative of the region’s collective concerns. Themes in his work, such as the migration of people and natural resources, represent both the personal and political.

Mathison also makes use of marks or residue left behind when minerals and artefacts are extracted from land, often referring to agricultural, mining, and building sites to highlight issues of capital, labour, and economic inequality.

Mathison completed his BFA at Michaelis School of Fine Arts, University of Cape Town, South Africa in 2000. He has since had 3 solo exhibitions with WHATIFTHEWORLD, including Over and over (2021),  States of Emergence (2017) and Manual (2014). Other notable solo exhibitions include: Dissolution (2018) and Uproot (2016) at Tyburn Gallery, London; Harvest (2015) at the Zeitz MOCAA Scheryn Pavilion, Cape Town and EXIT/EXILE (2014) at Nirox Projects, Johannesburg. Mathison has also shown the large-scale work Parallax (2018) at Frieze Sculpture in London and installed the public sculpture, Angular Mass (2017), for the V&A waterfront and Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town. His work has featured in group exhibitions such as  Inner Landscapes (2019) at Galleria Anna Marra, Rome, Broken English (2015) at Tyburn Gallery, London and Dudziro (2013), Zimbabwe Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, Venice.

He spent much of 2019 in residence in Italy at Muse Salentine, Alessano and Castello San Basilio, Pisticci and in 2020 he relocated from Johannesburg to Cape Town. He has been commissioned to create a large-scale public sculpture for North-West University.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2021 Over and over - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
2018 Dissolution. Tyburn Gallery, London
2017 States of Emergence - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Johannesburg
States of Emergence - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
2016 Uproot, Tyburn Gallery, London
2015 Harvest, Zeitz MOCAA Scheryn Pavilion, Cape Town
2014 Manual - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
2011 EXIT/EXILE, Nirox Projects, Johannesburg, South Africa

Selected Group Exhibitions

2022 The Phoenix Runway - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
2021 That Hidden Thread, NIROX Sculpture Park, Johannesburg
RESTUDIO, Cunningham Contemporary, Johannesburg
2018 Frieze Sculpture, Regent's Park, London
AKAA Carreau Du Temple, Paris
2016 A Place in Time, Nirox Sculpture Park, Johannesburg
Negative Space - WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
2015 Broken English, Tyburn Gallery, London
You love me, You love me not, Galeria municipal do Porto, Portugal
Nirox Sculpture / Winter 2015, Nirox Sculpture Park, Johannesburg
2014 Nirox Sculpture / Winter 2014, Nirox Sculpture Park, Johannesburg
Public sculpture, Arts on Main, Johannesburg
Zoo, Nirox projects, Johannesburg
2013 Dudziro, Zimbabwe Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale
Trans-Africa, Absa Gallery, Johannesburg
2012 Outside the lines, WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town
Southern Guild, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg
2011 EXIT/EXILE, Nirox Projects, Johannesburg
2009 HIFA, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare
Various, Brodie/Stevenson, Johannesburg
2005 Visions of Zimbabwe, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester

Permanent Collections

CÈLINE art Collection

Zeitz MOCAA Collection

Norval Foundation Collection

Nirox Sculpture Park Collection

North-West University Collection

The Spier Art Collection