In a serene studio full of birdsong, Omar Ba takes off his footwear and will get down on his arms and knees. Then the famend Senegalese artist begins to color a five-metre-long canvas a deep, darkish shade of black.
OMAR BA TOUCHES ON COLONIALISM, VIOLENCE AND HOPE
That is how Ba, a rising star on the earth of latest African artwork, begins most of his works, which query the state of the world and Africa’s place in it.
“On black backgrounds, I really feel that the drawing might be rather more readable and clear for me,” he mentioned from his ethereal workspace on the finish of a pathway strewn with shells from the close by Lac Rose.
“I really feel in good union with what I’m doing as a result of I discover myself in entrance of this color, which I discover noble and luxurious.”
Ba, 45, is a prime sensation on the 14th Dakar Biennale, which opened Thursday. His work touches on colonialism, violence, but additionally hope.
“We see the color white because the impartial color, the pure color, the harmless color,” he mentioned. “Black is all the time related to what’s soiled, what’s darkish … and that may have an effect on the one that lives these cliches.”
OMAR BA’S WORK IS INHABITED BY DREAM-LIKE VISIONS
Ba has 20 items at the moment on show on the Royal Museums of Wonderful Arts of Belgium, and an exhibition opening in New York in September.
In November, the Baltimore Museum of Artwork will host a retrospective of his work.
Enigmatic, even hallucinatory, and intensely poetic, his work is inhabited by dream-like visions with shimmering colors and hybrid creatures with the pinnacle of a goat, a ram or Horus, the falcon-headed Egyptian deity.
His creatures embody the traumas inherited from colonialism, tyranny, violence, North-South inequalities.
“These characters are half-man, half-animal,” he mentioned. “It’s a nod to the pure inside the human being, who I believe behaves like an animal within the jungle – we attempt to dominate others to have the ability to exist.”
OMAR BA SAYS HE IS FOCUSED ON SOLUTIONS
In his 2021 Anomalies exhibition in Brussels, Ba painted imaginary heads of state with their arms resting on a guide symbolising a structure, a approach to castigate the slew of African leaders who’ve lately modified constitutions with a view to keep in energy.
“We see that Africa needs to go elsewhere, needs to maneuver,” he mentioned.
“There are wars, overthrown heads of state, dictatorships … the African artist shouldn’t stay detached to what occurs on this continent – we should attempt to see what we will do to construct, pacify and provides hope.”
Presently, Ba says he’s targeted on options, a theme obvious in his biennale exhibit.
Considered one of his competition items options two figures with trophies for necks standing on an infinite globe and shaking arms. They’re surrounded by laurel branches, symbolising peace.
“It speaks of reconciliation, unity and an Africa that wins – not an Africa that all the time asks or begs, however an Africa that participates within the live performance of countries,” he mentioned.
The biennale, hosted in his dwelling nation for greater than three many years, holds particular significance for Ba. It was in Dakar the place, after abandoning coaching to be a mechanic, he switched to artwork research.
‘OMAR BA HAS REINVENTED PAINTING’
Since his first exhibition in Switzerland in 2010, Ba, who now lives between Senegal, Brussels and Geneva, has additionally exhibited on the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
For the previous few years, he has labored from the peace and quiet of his Bambilor studio, in the course of a mango plantation, an hour’s drive from Dakar, sharing the land with cows, geese and unique flowers.
“Omar Ba has reinvented portray,” mentioned Malick Ndiaye, the biennale’s inventive director.
“It’s an progressive and highly effective work that we’re not used to seeing by way of the method he makes use of, the supplies he makes use of and the composition and association.”
Extremely sought-after by collectors, Ba is represented by the Templon Gallery, which has beforehand exhibited Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cesar and Andy Warhol.
“His work is rather more complicated than most stuff you see – his therapy of material, his use of bestiary and color are strikingly sturdy and delightful,” mentioned gallerist Mathieu Templon.
“He is without doubt one of the African artists with probably the most aesthetic and political work.”
Ba’s work has featured within the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s everlasting assortment and the Louis Vuitton Basis for the Modern Artwork’s assortment.
Talking forward of the biennale, the continent’s largest up to date artwork occasion, Ba mentioned he was happy to see younger African artists “starting to enter very massive galleries and exhibit in museums which can be recognised internationally.”
“We should attempt to make Africa an important place for artwork,” he mentioned.
© Agence France-Presse/Lucie Peytermann