The theme of a new joint exhibition curated by Lahd Gallery and the Gallery Of African Art (GAFRA) will connect an “invisible pyramid” that unites North, East and West Africa. The four artists represented all possess a unique kinship with Africa’s rich and ever-diversifying culture.
Lahd Gallery is proud to be showcasing the works of Edward Akrout and Patrick Altes, each with a personal connection to North Africa – Altes being born in Algeria, of French and Spanish parentage, and Akrout being the descendant of a Franco-British and Tunisian union. They are exhibited alongside GAFRA artists Olayanju Dada and Daniel Soresa, from West and East Africa respectively. Although all four are from very different backgrounds and artistic disciplines they each have an uncanny ability to translate their connection with African society and culture through their work.
Akrout, an actor and film maker in addition to his visual artistic output, is easily recognisable through his ability to show the emotion and character of his subjects and themes, whether it’s through layers upon layers of colour and energetic mark making that weaves into tapestries of vibrant life, or his ability to distil a character down to just its base elements.
Altes uses a wide spectrum of mixed media throughout most of his work, everything from painting and drawing right through to an inclusive style of collage. It’s fair to say that Altes’ work might suggest an individual searching for his own sense of artistic identity and style by turning a hand to anything that happens to be available but each approach and medium is brought to its own piece with such expert consideration that it becomes obvious very quickly, to any new viewer of his work, that he is not a ‘jack of all trades’ but more a connoisseur of what works for what he wants to achieve. The end results are often suggestive of his personal search for cultural identity, as well as a reflection on his inherited one, and present themselves in scenes of abstract parallel to scenes that are easily recognisable or relatable upon viewing but are unmistakably warped. As a pair, Akrout provides fluid and stylised characters while Altes suggests the stories they might tell.
Dada, is currently based in Germany but he has previously lived in Nigeria, the UK and India. His artworks are full of texture and depth, and feature “found materials”. Dada’s narratives are inspired by the poetics of mixing dissimilar elements into what he calls ‘experimental collages’. His focus is to ‘translate displaced objects into a further state of meaning and symbolic essence’, thereby creating a ‘re-entry’ into the flow of cultural transactions and narratives.
Soresa complements Dada perfectly. Born in Ethiopia, he moved to Barcelona at an early age before later returning to his country of birth. He then travelled extensively in West Africa, and relocated to his current home in Norway. As a youngster, he immersed himself in art, and became fascinated with colour and light. His works are born of a medley of colours, and are elaborated with pigments and full of texture. As does Dada, Soresa composes abstract pieces that layer colour and media in order to create rich works of art, with a fusion of hues and cultures that bring his works to life. He describes as having “a strong influence of African art, but seen with a western perspective.” Soresa’s pieces are softer and more ethereal than Dada’s; characteristics which define Soresa’s edge as an artist.
Although all four artists have distinctive background and style – they all tell stories that speak of experience, of inside knowledge concerning a place they each owe a great deal to. Each of them tells their stories with a clear love of their origin but with a very human undertone of nostalgia and longing. Africa is portrayed as a vibrantly captivating place of diversity and energy, filled with an endless supply of rich stories that are bursting to be told. It is through the vibrancy and colour of these four talented individuals and the convergence of their work that Africa comes to life.
Africa My Africa – Connecting Boundaries highlights these perspectives of “home”, reaffirming connections to one’s origin, irrespective of one’s current physical location. We are connecting the boundaries – and becoming united in our distinctiveness.
The Private view will be held on October the 27th at 6pm and the exhibition will continue until the 3rd of December at GAFRA, 45 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4JL.