Foreign Agent presents ‘Chasing Spirits’, curated by Roger Niyigena Karera. ‘Chasing Spirits’ features works by four contemporary artists who explore the powerful liminal space at the intersection of the visible and the invisible, reality and fantasy: Bunmi Agusto (Nigeria), Nene Mahlangu (South Africa), Eshinlokun Wasiu (Nigeria) and Yvanovitch Mbaya (Rep. of Congo).
Nene Mahlangu, Embracing Duality, 2023. Acrylic Paint on Canvas, 90 x 90cm. Courtesy of the artist and Foreign Agent.
The spiritual world of ‘Chasing Spirits’ is populated by invisible forces: elongated outstretched arms projecting long braids against a vibrant green sky, mysterious women draped in red emerging from potent expanses of water, black shadow figures bound by bold yellow tape and blank figures set against textured brown spaces caught in various stages of trance. Its spiritual power derives from its organic dimension and association with nature: plants, coffee, charcoal – some used in the artistic process – rooting the works in the soil of the African continent. Many works are guided by ritual actions: whether the pursuit of ecstasy through trance, purification through water, release through binding. Chasing Spirits celebrates the universality of what ties us together as human beings and what connects us to the power of nature. Our place in the world.
‘Chasing Spirits’ delves into the personal mythologies of the artists shaped by their multicultural identities influenced by collective and private histories, as well as their own investigation into selfhood.
Bunmi Agusto’s practice explores psychology, cultural theory and the evolution of selfhood through the lens of fantasy. Her works combine drawing, painting, and printmaking as they tell the stories of the inhabitants of a surrealist wonderland in her mind called Within. The indigenous inhabitants of this world are hybrids whose human form is combined with elements she finds integral to her sense of self and cultural consciousness. Non-Hybrid humans are also present in Within as family members, friends and passers-by in the artist’s waking life are subsumed into the world through encounters and begin to occupy the role of cross-reality migrants in her mind.
In her recent body of work, Nene Mahlangu embraces both the light and the dark, the visible and the invisible, in order to capture the complexity and richness of the human experience. Water is a powerful element that can both reveal and conceal, depending on its depth, clarity, and movement. In these paintings, the women wading in water represent the hidden parts of ourselves that we may not always show to the world. By depicting the women in water, the artist explores the idea of emotional and spiritual purification, and the potential for growth and transformation that can come from facing our inner selves.
All of us have shadows. Often ignored and unconsidered but always, reliably there. They are what confirms our solidity, our presence in the world. For Eshinlokun Wasiu, the exaggerated positioning of his silhouetted figures, juxtaposed with bold braids of tape, creates an uncanny visual metaphor which represents a universal state of being. Through his work he encourages us to access a free way of living, unbound by fear.
Yvanovitch Mbaya explores the different facets of his identity by immersing himself in ancestral Kongo traditions. Through his practice of contemporary dance, he explores the themes of trance and connection with the ancestors. He uses materials such as coffee, charcoal powder and Indian ink to transcribe the environment that surrounds him and which is part of his identity. He seeks to represent the dedication and harmony between the human being and his environment, values that are important in Bantu culture.
The exhibition will be on view from the 13th of May until the 8th of July, 2023. For more information, please visit Foreign Agent.