Sunday, 8 February 2015

Magicians of the Earth: Part 2

I put up a post a while ago about the exhibition 'Magicians of the Earth' and although reflecting on the fact that non Western artists from that show had had very different careers since then, didn't really look at what those artists are doing now. Some of the artists in that show have continued to produce very interesting work, and because their influences stem from cultures outside Western traditions their imagery is perhaps more surprising or feels more engaged with mythic traditions outside our own. I think these artists are well worth looking at and they can perhaps help revitalise your own practice, never forget that Picasso could not have produced 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' if he had not been introduced to the ethnological museum in Paris.

José Bedia
The Peruvian artist José Bedia’s work reflects the transcultural journeys he has made. He has worked with the Afro-Cuban religion Palo Monte, Mexican shamens, Peruvian Amazonian people as well as making work done pilgrimages to Zambia where he worked with diviners. I am particularly interested in how he is now working on a very large scale and using objects in relation to his drawings, thus opening out his work into a more environmental space. He is trying to respond to the myths and ritualistic nature of cultures that he feels are more in touch with the spiritual nature of life. Now that travel is so accessible this type of work is becoming more possible, however there is a Postmodern issue here which raises ethical questions, whether or not he is immersed in these cultures or simply appropriating them? One argument would be that this is a normal and proper response to a globalism, which celebrates diverse cultures, another would be that this is just another version of cultural imperialism. It feels to me that as a Peruvian he sees himself as an 'outsider' and therefore my guess is that his response is authentic but you will have to make your own minds up. 

All images above by José Bedia

Twins Seven Seven
Prince Twins Seven Seven, was born Prince Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale-Toyeje Oyelale Osuntoki  in Ogidi, Nigeria. His work reflects a personal cosmology drawn from Yoruba myths and stories. He saw the materials of his work as the physical manifestation of a universe of potent forces in a state of constant transformation, his personal language is shaped into creatures and people that reveal a mythopoetic world. 


TWIN SEVEN SEVEN: Sea Ghosts 3: Ink on Plywood

Twin Seven Seven comes from a similar culture to the Leeds based artist Oluseyi Ogunjobi. Oluseyi is a storyteller, musician, painter and textile artist. Seyi’s work reflects a philosophical journey striving to capture the universal essence of spirituality and its relevance to the needs of our contemporary commodity driven society. He believes that some answers can be found within the traditional life and stories found in Yoruba culture. 
The Dance of the Moody Breeze (below) is a figurative image of a dancing masquerade which was created because of Seyi’s interest in the philosophies that govern the evocations of mask performances from different parts of Africa. Depending on the origin of the masquerade and the philosophies associated with his appearance, the costume a man wears may cover his whole body or part of his body. For instance, it is an abomination for the body of the Yoruba Egungun masquerades from Nigeria to be seen, hence, the type of costumes they wear must cover their whole body because they are supposed to be inhabitants of heaven, visiting the community of their living relatives. But this particular image represents another type of mask performance from the South Eastern part of Nigeria, where the costume does not cover all the body. The wavelike mark making strokes surrounding the masked figure and the atmosphere depicts the mood of the occasion and the reverence associated with the transformation and the ritual in progress. Although Oluseyi wasn't in the Magicians of the Earth exhibition his work comes from a tradition that that exhibition sought to celebrate and the fact that he works in Leeds again illustrates the global nature of cultural communities. 
Oluseyi Ogunjobi:

Oluseyi Ogunjobi: Dance of the Moody Breeze: Batik

Fréderic Bruly Bouabré
Fréderic Bruly Bouabré was an Ivorian artist. He produced thousands of small cards using ballpoint pens and crayons, with symbolic imagery surrounded by text, each card carried a unique divinatory message and comments on life and history. 

Fréderic Bruly Bouabré drawings on show. It's a lot of work to hang drawings like this but for small drawings which are all the same format it works really well. 

Fréderic Bruly Bouabré

Norval Morrisseau
Canadian artist Norval Morrisseau created works depicting the legends of his people, the cultural and political tensions between native Canadian and European traditions, his existential struggles, and his deep spirituality and interest in mysticism. His images are clearly part of the North American Indian mythos but their stylisation also echoes an awareness of modernism and some forms of illustration. The depiction of both insides and outsides is in particular very interesting and reminded me of some Australian aboriginal images. 

Norval Morrisseau

Marcel Dzama

Marcel Dzama is another canadian artist but much younger. His name simply popped into my mind when I was thinking about Morrisseau. His quirky cartoon-like drawings extend the trend in contemporary drawing of examining the awkward nature of social narratives, a trend exemplified by artists such as Mike Kelley, Raymond Pettibon and Martin Kippenberger. I'll post about that too but not today. So I'll simply leave you with an image of Dzama's and a thought about how the traditions of ethic Canadian art have obviously found some space in Dzama's visual imagination, even though he is obviously a sophisticated post-modern Western image maker. Perhaps all cultures both past and present are now part of our visual vocabulary, the advent of the internet bringing them together under one electronic roof, and what matters now is how we as artists respond to that and make meaning from this vast multiplicity of possibilities. 

Marcel Dzama

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