Kenyan artist Paul Onditi’s richly layered multi-media paintings, somewhat reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg’s collages, depict a solitary existence; a lonely struggle against the dizzying forces of change in the midst of a rapidly changing landscape that is presumably his hometown.
These forces are not native to Africa and thus his condition is a universal one. Spurred on by the similacra of our hyperreal society, these images depict the ephemerality of contemporary existence and ultimately are a commentary on illusion and reality. Here, Onditi displays the bewildering moments of disorientation when one realizes that fiction has overtaken reality, due to the seductive power of the similacrum, a shimmering beacon of light, allowing it to become more real than reality itself. This is after all, the core tenet of hyperreality.
Syrian American artist Diana Al-Hadid’s abstract liquefied sculptures with flowing, dripping forms frozen in time uses historical references to comment on various aspects of our contemporary existence. The act of liquefying a material and solidifying it both strengthens and produces an abstraction in form, somewhat reminiscent of a Pollock in 3 dimensions and also of architectural ruins. In this respect, it can be said that she uses the language of ruins to convey her message.
Levitation is another consistent theme; those free-flowing gravity defying forms, aided by the strength of material solidification and by hidden structural members, are inspired from her interest in the Baroque.
The carved wood block carvings of Latvian artist Mikelis Fisers shows a dystopian world, taken over by aliens or enlarged insects and other creatures, who have subjugated humans as their slaves, guinea pigs or servants.
Easily misunderstood and written off as childish, ludicrous or deviant on first impressions, but on a closer, more ‘esoteric’ inspection, one might see it as a mix of ancient tribal and comic art. The size of these prints, at 8″x10″, and the way it’s sort of ‘hidden’ within a recess in a column during the exhibition, also lends to this sub-culture feeling. But it is also a vernacular art; all the aliens, mermaids and dinosaurs, are the vernacular of the artist’s mind and are mixed together to create a mythological alternate reality.
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The documentary filmmaker duo of Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel specialize in films that have no apparent storyline, no beginning, ending and no script nor narration. Known as anthropological artists, their films of raw images and sounds from the chosen environments speak for themselves to the subject matter at hand.
But they are not traditional anthropologists who study cultures of ancient tribes in distant lands, nor are they standard documentarians since their films don’t have any interviews, scripts or storylines. They can however, be considered socially conscious artists who use images and sounds to highlight peculiar sectors of society and in so doing, question our own existential meaning.
The paintings of Albanian artist Edi Hila depict street scenes of his home country in transition as it changes from a closed economy to a market based one. With reserved, pastel colours, these paintings provoke viewers to the issues and absurdities surrounding an Albania in development through surreal concoctions of what would be otherwise a mundane daily sight.