He covered a lot of ground in a relatively short life - a home grown Renaissance man. His contemporaries - in keeping with the intellectual climate of the times - were astonished that an individual could be so comfortable in the then highly compartmentalized areas of science, art and culture.
In his lifetime, David was successful business entrepreneur an artist and a self taught scientist/boffin who broke new ground. He self funded scientific research into bats’ echolocation. He developed sonar blind aids and prototype sonic burglar alarms. At the time of his death (aged 51) his bat work was due to for publication in Nature magazine and he was being drawn to researching Dolphin speech in Florida.
As an artist, he rubbed shoulders with pioneering contemporaries in the then Southern Rhodesia (currently Zimbabwe). People such as Patterson of Cyrene, Frank McEwen (both key figures in the history development and recognition of indigenous African art in the west) , Staite Murray (world renowned potter) and others. His friends ranged the gamut of race, class and religion, as well as views and roles in the turbulent politics of the day. As a self financing artist David had not need for his art ,to do other than to satisfy his own creative imperative. He, together with Romulo Fiorini (with his family connections to the famous sculpture foundry Fiorini and Carney in London) effected the first lost wax casting in Zimbabwe. David’s marble and terrazzo business led him to a number of large pubic architectural art assignments in Harare (e.g museum sculptures shown in the web gallery). .
There is little information about David Chudy’s early life. The youngest of a large family, which ranged from Lithuania, Poland, and Germany he and 3 siblings ended up in Southern/central Africa before 1939. (parts of the family are named Hude). Almost all of the extended family perished under the Nazis. Precious few threads are left which point to their ancestral story.
David ended up in the Copper-belt of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) where he played bagpipes in an entirely non-Scottish, 'Scottish self defense regiment,' and where he worked deep underground as a plumbing technician in the mines. Seemingly he had idle time down there as evidenced by a number of oil paintings of his fellow workers toiling at these great depths. This really was the ‘old Africa’ – a million miles away from the usual comforts and even further from European arts and culture. These works are amongst the earliest evidence of his personal interest in Art.
In common with many of European origin, suddenly exposed to the bright African light and the bleached sunburned landscape, his work underwent a radical change of color sense during his life.- finally leaving behind the muted northern palatte and celebrating with bright saturated colors The influences in his work are plain to see (cubist, Picasso Rodin Epstein Moore and so on) but his later work began to showcase individuality. In painting, textures and color began to supplant form, but unlike many who had gone through this phase, he clung to the idea of the individual portrait with the sitter present during execution. Similarly with sculpture the work became more abstract and idiosyncratic. He, accompanied most of the way by his wife Ellen undertook a long and rigorous overland journey in 1961 from Zimbabwe, across India Vietnam and including Japan (meeting Shoji Hamada) Indonesia Java and Sumatra. Some of the work was produced during that long journey.
Critics have cited a kind of innocence as pervading his work. Certainly, colonial Rhodesia, during the early days, leading to its birth as the independent nation of Zimbabwe was a place where 'innocence' and the 'loss of innocence' were core to the time.
Apart from people close to him his work included a few public figures (again - not all are presently featured in the gallery)
Special thanks - most featured photos by Alex Black