It Dwells Within
This is part of our special feature, Beyond Eurafrica: Encounters in a Globalized World.
Through the works of three African-European artists, “It Dwells Within” depicts the contemporary and historical relationship between Europe and Africa. With his massive sculptures comprised of crumpled metals, bottle caps, and other recyclables, Ghanaian artist El Anatsui draws parallels between consumption, waste, and the environment. Hailing from Guinea Bissau, Nú Barreto uses his artwork, simultaneously graphic and pictorial, to expose social injustice, while Atta Kwami’s abstract paintings are responses to vernacular architecture in his region of Ghana.
–Kayla Maiuri for EuropeNow
Individuellement / Moi je (Individually / I), 2016, H110 x L110 cm
Déséquilibre (Unbalance), (2016), H110 x L110 cm
L’Horizon des plus faibles (The horizon of the weakest), 2014, H170 x L110 x 2 cm
At first glance, some of Nú Barreto’s works set a delicate gray atmosphere in the retina, which is immediately recorded by the memory. Thereafter, ethereal images without gravity, floating in the space in different positions, vaulting in unexpected and musical choreographies, emerge from that translucent magma. In other works, in those where color and collage are more present, signs of chalk, pastel, or thick paint design, with an almost childish expression, are clearly shown, as well as stains which evoke cartoon figures, monsters devouring icons—some from European and international politics—or clouds and smudges hosting photographs of reference figures from the universe of Art and Culture.
Nú Barreto was born in 1966, in São Domingos, in the north of Guinea Bissau, and moved to Paris in 1989, where he currently lives and works. He was initially interested in photography and studied briefly at the Photography School AEP in Paris, in 1993. He then pursued his studies at the Ecole Nationale des Métiers d’Image au Gobelins from 1994 to 1996, where he finished his photography studies. Nú Barreto’s work has been shown in several solo exhibitions in France, Portugal, Spain and New York. In 1998, he exhibited his work at the Lisbon World Exposition. In 2013, he participated for the second time in UNESCO’s Art for Peace exhibition in Paris.
Thami Mnyele I, 2016, acrylic on linen, 76 x 88 ins /193 x 223.5 cm
Kwahu-Tafo, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 73.7 x 140.9 cm / 29 x 59 ins
Thami Mnyele III, 2016, acrylic on linen, 76 x 59 ins / 193 x 149.8 cm
ÉLÈMÈ, a word from the Ewe language translates: “it is true,” “it is contained” or “it dwells within.” Although Kwami’s work depends on inventing a critical reality, all routes to a resolution are driven by a compulsion towards truth or rightness within the work. “The result is not so much a documentary as a fictional reality, a series of interpretations, perhaps, of those sideways glances …” (John Picton, 2002). In painting and printmaking, Kwami strives for a balance wherein decoration and its absence are contained in a state of febrile equilibrium; where the painterly performance is inseparable from the final result.
Atta Kwami is a painter and printmaker with an interest in art history, art criticism, and archives. He works between Ghana and the UK. He currently serves on the Modernism and Aesthetics Research Advisory Board of Iwalewahaus, University of Bayreuth, Germany: “African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic.” He is the author of Kumasi Realism 1951-2007: An African Modernism. (Hurst & Company, London, 2013). Photography by Kevin Ryan, FRSA
Awakened, 2012, found aluminum and copper wire, 133 x 105 inches (including tassels)
El Anatsui, 2015, aluminum and copper wire, 113 3/8 x 101 5/8 inches
Womb of Time, 2014, aluminum and copper wire, 24 x 85 3/4 x 43 3/4 inches
The link between Africa, Europe, and America is very much apart of what is behind [Anatsui’s] work with bottle caps. [He] has experimented with quite a few materials that have witnessed and encountered a lot of touch and human use… and these kinds of materials and work have more charge than material and work he has completed with machines.
El Anatsui (born 1944) is a Ghanaian sculptor active for much of his career in Nigeria. He has drawn particular international attention for his iconic “bottle-top installations,” distinctive large-scale assemblages of thousands of pieces of aluminium sourced from alcohol recycling stations and sewn together with copper wire, transformed into metallic cloth-like wall sculptures in a way that can “draw connections between consumption, waste, and the environment.”
Kayla Maiuri is the editorial and publications associate at the Council for European Studies, and the associate editor of EuropeNow. She holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University, where she served as fiction editor of Columbia: A Journal of Literature & Art. She is currently working on her first novel.
Published on March 1, 2018.