This Is Not a White Cube art gallery presents in 2021, the replenishment of the first solo show of the Santomean artist, René Tavares, in Luanda, Angola.
Scheduled for March 2020, due to the pandemic crisis, the physical exhibition never opened.
“Migraçōes e Coisas, Retalhos de uma Historia Só”, integrates around 40 works produced between 2012 and 2020, many of which are unpublished and exposes, through two different central nuclei, a significant variety of media ranging from painting to drawing, including photography and installation.
Through these, the artist explores the themes of migration and heritage that have been, over the years, a consistent engine of innovation and creativity in his artistic production.
The persistence of both the concepts “layer” and “miscegenation” define the main structure of the exhibition, in a transposed view of René Tavares' own work, which repeatedly introduces inevitable conceptual combinations, crossed cultural and heritage references, and composite plastic solutions.
The multiple strata that materially and visually add up in each work by René Tavares - be it painting, photography or drawing - find reciprocity in their conceptual structuring.
The process of agglomeration of layers results from the transposition into the work of a look that can be defined as archaeological or stratified on the ancestral Santomean culture of Tchiloli - a traditional Santomean spectacle of European origin - which the artist recovers, represents, and reinterprets visually.
The rescue of Tchiloli's immateriality, seen through the lens of contemporary artistic production that René Tavares embodies, is declared in this exercise that documents the intersection between the personal narratives - of the actors who interpret it - and the broader historical narratives - that the characters stage in streets of São Tomé and Príncipe.
“Two lives Tchiloli” is the oldest photographic series that is part of the exhibition and perhaps the one that, most clearly, embodies this idea of an encounter between the past and the present, between the individual and the collective, between personal and historical narratives in one composition, visually translating the meeting between three cultures - Portuguese, French and Santomean - and the heritage that came from that.
The documental photographs, that are at the base of Réne’s research, remind us of a historical past and a cultural tradition that needs to be recovered but simultaneously push us to the contemporary stage, where ideologies and concepts related to the notion of territory and of identity and where the relevance of the physical and ideological boundaries came between civilizations is disputed.
The collective memory of the peoples and the heritage resulting from their voluntary and involuntary crossings, which René Tavares addresses to the first part of the exhibition, translates into a body of work that leads us physically and intellectually to another nucleus, subsequent, more current and committed to the factual and future vision of a continent that, in the age of globalization, continues to recover its traditions, reaffirm its roots and consolidate a revision of history that today, both academically and politically, operates on the international stage.
As a central piece “Fantastic African Union” part of the “Thinking about Africa's future” series, we are challenged by the idea of placing ourselves between the critical review of a dystopian conception of the continent's identity and the demand to affirm a renewed look at the several Africas that the continent encloses inside doors and in the diaspora.
René Tavares' work relies on a wealth of archives to send us countless intellectual challenges, and his practice proposes the redefinition of the fields of artistic expression by bringing to painting, techniques, gestures, and materials that report to drawing and transferring to drawing the gesturalism and theatricality that is the prerogative of painting. This hybridization of visual languages is still transferred to photography, claiming for art an absolute feature.
(Graça Rodrigues, 2020)
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