06 APRIL 2023 – 28 MAY 2023

Grief is just another form of love. The sense of sorrow and grief become the bricks I use to make a home within me, and love always opens a door in me, allowing the fresh air in and bringing with it a sense of hope. That emotion is what I try to capture in my work. – Gabriel Tendai Choto

On view from April 6 to May 28 2023, Gabriel Choto presents large-scale wooden windows in oil on Somerset paper and delves into deeply personal narratives of grappling with grief and depression due to suppressed emotions shaped by trapped, constructed cultural norms where it is not socially acceptable for men to express their feelings.

The exhibition’s title is inspired by a song called Stimela by the renowned South African musician and composer, Hugh Masekela. The eleventh line of the song’s live introduction Deep, deep down in the belly of the earth, captures the political unrest in then apartheid South Africa and suggests grief, pain and empathy for struggling Black men, immigrants and labourers who were not encouraged to express moments of weakness outwardly. Connecting the dots within his own life and relating with the characters in the song, Choto takes his viewers on a metaphoric journey of emotional transparency.

The expanse of space in each painting alludes to glimmers of hope amid long periods of suppressed emotions and the daily struggle with mental health. Choto places himself as the subject in most of his compositions, unveiling difficult periods in his life. The surface of the oil paintings is imbued with semi-hyper-real elements, accentuating the strategic use of negative space, and soulful beiges take on a therapeutic hue, the perfect muted background to contain the catharsis of each character.

Deep, Deep Down In The Belly Of The Earth lays bare Choto’s vulnerabilities. It builds up layers of aesthetic compositions as simple as the experience and as complex as the emotions he tries to evoke.