Life Is A Beautiful Colour – Exhibition of Contemporary African Artists

Qhamanande Maswana, Blue Beanie
Qhamanande Maswana, Blue Beanie © Janet Rady Fine Art | Price $2,635

By Luli Gibbs | Janet Rady Fine Art

Janet Rady Fine Art is pleased to present Life Is A Beautiful Colour, a group show of  emerging contemporary African artists co-curated by Hyacinthe Kouassi and Elorm Gosu.  Including works by Frank Asso, Alex Gbizié, Muramuzi JohnBosco, Joseph Kojo Hoggar,  Qhamanande Maswana, Osman Salifu and Affen Segun the exhibition brings together works that exude and celebrate the vibrancy and warmth of the contemporary lived experience across the continent of Africa. From representations of the fast pace of city life, the communal relationships shared in villages, to quieter more focused and confronting portraits of African youth, though the works in this show were created by artists from nations as diverse as their form and subject matter.


Life Is A Beautiful Colour unifies and celebrates the inherent pride of a shared black heritage and experience that these works celebrate  

Affen Segun is a Nigerian self-taught artist who found artistic inspiration from a young age  in the popular Nigerian comic “Super Strikers”. His penetrating portraits of Nigerian youths  confront the viewer, and though they maintain solemn expressions their character comes to the  fore in the vibrant rendering of their clothing and background. Segun is constantly inspired by  the bright/zesty colours worn by his mother and incorporates the physical ankara fabrics worn by  his Yoruba family members into the surfaces of his canvases. Segun’s work pays homage to his  roots, and this was seen no more clearly than in his first solo exhibition in Lagos, entitled Omo  Adérónké, (son of Adérónké).  


Frank Asso is a technically experienced artist and teacher from the Ivory Coast. His works  capture scenes of daily life, centering around women and children of the African continent, who  fill the places in which he represents Abidjan and the West African sub-region including  Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Asso’s impressionistic approach incorporates traditional  techniques of weaving and African mats with flatness and fragmentation. His employment of  local materials such as newspaper, pieces of cloth and loincloths unites his canvas with ochre  tints and warm tones which evoke the warmth, joy and atmosphere of life on the African  continent. For Asso, using the traditional technique of weaving highlights his culture’s artistic  heritage. It not only adds dimensionality to the work itself, but creates a bridge between  traditional and contemporary art.  

Likewise, Alex Gbizié is from the Côte D’Ivoire, and is an illustrator and painter who has  been working as a choreographer in a children’s dance troupe, which provides a constant source  of inspiration for his work. The inherent joyful carefree nature of childhood is a central focus of  Gbizié’s work, as are his explorations of childhood dreams that are integral to his recollection of  growing up. Alex Gbizié’s paintings evoke daily life, solidarity, and fulfilment. They take us back  to our childhood memories and offer positivity and hope for a better future. Pattern is a central feature of Gbizié’s body of work, with his backgrounds formed by alternating curved, straight,  spiral and broken bands of colour that recreate the shapes and forms of young children. These  lines, according to Gbizié, are representative of the paths that our dreams and intimate  ambitions take. The hazy shapes of the background are contrasted by the clarity of the  foreground subjects that are reminiscent of childhood themes.  


Like Gbizié, Muramuzi JohnBosco draws/cites inspiration from the traditional technique  of weaving by his mother that he witnessed in his childhood. From Sheema District, Uganda,  JohnBosco’s artistic practice is informed by the examination of human beings in their local  surroundings. As he says, the subject matter of his works come from memories of the many journeys taken from the village of Sheema to the streets of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the  places he has lived in, the experience of city life – the congestion and traffic jams, and the scenes  of everyday life of an African city-dweller. Like the locally inspired subject matter of JohnBosco’s  works, the materials he uses also come from his local environment. By incorporating oil, acrylic,  mud, soil, old cloths, backcloth, raffia, papers and other materials on his canvas, JohnBosco’s  artworks create space for colour, texture, shadow and light to interact, creating a multi dimensional canvas upon which JohnBosco can render his memories and representations of city  life. 

The Ghanaian artist Joseph Kojo Hoggar combines his knowledge of classical art history  and contemporary culture to create pastiches that are rendered on sheets and canvases. By  appropriating images of distinctly contemporary African themes and inserting them into the  composition and form of ‘canonical’ European works, Hoggar subverts the viewer’s reading of  the works before them and brings to the fore the black figure’s subliminal knack for easily being  misunderstood. Hoggar actively participates in securing and creating modern artefacts and  materials to replace those depicted in the works he references. The articles of contemporary  African life are brought to the fore in Hoggar’s works, while referencing a European artistic  tradition. Hoggar’s synthesis of vibrant colours and animated iconography reflects his truth inspired sensibility and pays homage to canonical paintings by Rembrandt, Caravaggio and  Hans Holbein. 

Qhamanande Maswana is an emerging South African artist whose works centre on the  depiction of women. His interest in daily life is clear in his works, as is his pride in his African  heritage. In this show, Maswana’s portraits exude a stillness and power provided by the frontal  pose of his models. His mastery of tonal modelling and acrylic come together to create a singular  portrayal of African youth today. As Maswana says, “My work engages the viewer with the roots  and the beauty of black people’s culture in South Africa, especially from the uncontaminated  parts. It has a modern approach so as to take the viewer through our daily life experiences.” His  works have been shown at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Ann Bryant Art Gallery, Galerie NOKO, Port Elizabeth National Arts Festival, Eclectica design art, and MMart  house. 


Osman Salifu is a Ghanaian emerging artist whose work expresses a fervent pride in his  identity as a young black man embracing his uniqueness and heritage. Salifu’s glistening  portraits of men and women showcase his advocacy against skin bleaching and its unfathomable  trend in recent times. As he says, “this new body of work seeks to address the rampant skin  bleaching, which has become common in black society worldwide. I literally want to make black  people aware of how beautiful and unique our skin colour can be.” Salifu’s paintings straddle the  imaginative and the real-world order where the processes involved are just as compelling as the  outcome. The landscapes conjure up memories of people’s experiences and the colour schemes  evoke the feeling of kinship and longing while adding a touch of warmth and inventiveness.

Running from 7 September – 4 October, this online show of emerging African artists  seeks to celebrate the pride shared by these cross-continent artists in the contemporary African  experience.

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