Amadou Sanogo (Mali) and Mawande Ka Zenzile (South Africa) are two artists who get at the heart of bewildering, paradoxical, and absurd aspects of contemporary society.
Their juxtaposition of conventional practices and new ideas from across time and place can therefore be a map of how power moves in art and society.
With irreverence towards Western canon and iconographies, their striking works respond to post-colonial modernism to challenge what and how we see. Although they are from very different geographic modalities, these two artists have lived through a great deal of local, national, and global socio-political upheaval. Their juxtaposition of conventional practices and new ideas from across time and place can therefore be a map of how power moves in art and society. Sanogo brings a tragically comedic angle to his critique. In his series of large paintings on repurposed fabric, individually titled Sans Tête (2016), there is a funny dissonance between the seemingly happy colors and the gnarled, headless characters depicted. The contortions of the figures speak to the inner turmoil and disharmony present in a society that values selfishness and the pursuit of power. Having literally and metaphorically lost their connection to themselves and their community, Sanogo’s characters are rendered inhuman in shape, yet realistic because of their distress in the face of moral turmoil.
While previously interested in appropriating existing imagery to criticise hegemony, Ka Zenzile’s approach has become increasingly nonrepresentational and text-based. Paintings like Body/Soul Without the Mind (2018) for example, visualise ideologies – in this case, the duality between body and spirit – which are often taken for granted, calling our attention to tensions or inconsistencies within them. Inspired by his Xhosa background, the artist expertly blends natural and key building materials, such as cow dung, with oil paints, redefining what is valuable in art. His vividly expressive paintings are the result of a deeply meditative contemplation of our ideological, political, and cultural systems.
While Sanogo’s brightly colored paintings of human-like figures may seem to contrast with Ka Zenzile’s flat expanses of earth toned pigment, the works reflect each artist’s attempt to draw on their background and cultural context to illustrate the state of humanity.
An article by Rachell Marie Morillo
Featured image : Amadou Sanogo, Sans Tête, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 150 × 230 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Retro Africa.
This article was written for The Art Momentum | ART X Lagos Artpaper.
Articles are published in their original language | Les articles sont publiés dans leur langue d’origine