Points et Itineraires
Brundyn+, Cape Town
04.09.2014 – 25.10.2014
From the 4 September to the 25 October 2014, Brundyn+ Gallery hosted Sidy Diallo’s exhibition ‘Points et Itineraires’. Sidy Diallo is a painter from Senegal who works in a style that is inspired by lithography, a medium characteristic of many African artists. The exhibition is comprised of images that depict bridges and roads, whose forms seem to implicitly contain the anonymity of transition, and within Diallo’s context they are further imbued with political connotations.
The way Diallo explores his interests within the medium has to do with the scale of the work; he incorporates paint and other materials like brown paper making the work multimedia in nature. In his style however, he quotes the traditional use of lithography within an African context which surrounds the issue of access – in this case the simple access to materials like paints and brushes. This of course has broader connotations.
Sidy Diallo distorts both the scale of the images and the canvas; instead of the dots and working surface being small they have been enlarged. In doing this Diallo maintains lithography’s sombre mystery, while at the same time retaining a boldness that evokes within the audience an immediate sense of nostalgia. Their difference, however, also lies in the sense that the images represent the immediacy of the contemporary discourse of forced migrations and exile. Here the large dots add to this effect distorting the image, conveying the anonymity of transition and the certainty of being identified as an exile, referencing a discourse in which the Diaspora lies implicit.
The backgrounds of the paintings are also depicted with dots as if the artist seeks to connect the figures to their circumstance. The large dots and the scale of the work in relation to the traditional themes of the lithograph are an attempt to depoliticize this state of affairs, the effect has a vitality that is contradictory to the plight of these embarcations as if now there is a freedom in them that only youth can realize.
The exhibition explores the underlying reasons for crossing borders in contemporary African society in the wake of phenomena like the slave trade, the diaspora and human trafficking. Throughout the exhibition there is the motif of the road or path, that connotes transitions which both seek to inculcate a form of limbo as well as forms of connecting. However, in the exhibition these paths or roads not only act as metaphors for transition, they are also metaphors for the fact that cultures are not informed by the progress of an encounter. In the case of Diallo’s migrations this is an encounter with diversity, and as a result they become, with the people who represent these cultures, barren as the roads they use to migrate.
In Travel Masqued 3 – an acrylic, pastel and paper on canvas piece – a large male figure is walking on a narrow path or road with white hands and feet and appears to be contemplating or lamenting previous migrations. Not only is he connected to those who took this path in the past, he seems through his posture to physically appropriate their struggle. Furthermore the small figures on the edge of the canvas walking on another path, appear to be in an indeterminate state facing different directions. Their presence and disorientation suggests that the figure in the middle of the painting too is lamenting the strife or plight of embarking on the path.
There is, it seems, an almost binary opposition contained within the exhibition. The work E & A is a piece depicting two figures, one male painted brown and grey, the other female painted cream with an apple on the ground. The work seems to state that even though migrations are characterised by a lacking, when a destination is found there are nevertheless fruits to reap, not just in the encounter with diversity but also that the industry of transition can be realized. If there is anything sinister it lies in the treachery of the path, with its promise of fruit and sustenance, which are replete with the ambiguity of an arrival that does not necessarily mean success. However the other paintings in the exhibition are barren of the idea of reward. What the artist seems to suggest is that at the end of the path, an encounter with diversity and creativity is inevitable, but this does not guarantee a holistic success as is connoted by the bitten and discarded apple.
These ideas of success and frailty are brought together with presence of the bridge in the exhibition titled The Crossing. It speaks and is a metaphor for the universal forms of economic struggles, the discourse of innovation and the frailty of community development that can enforce migrations and crossings. In this sense the footbridge becomes the universal image of socio-economic frailty. It is a traditional foot-bridge with ropes and foot planks, extended from one end of the hall to the other – it effectively connects one painting to another.