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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