Writing Art History Since 2002

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Gabriel Choto presents large-scale wooden windows in oil on Somerset paper and delves into deeply personal narratives of grappling with grief and depression due to suppressed emotions shaped by trapped, constructed cultural norms where it is not socially acceptable for men to express their feelings.

Courtesy of the artist and ADA Contemporary Art Gallery.

The exhibition’s title is inspired by a song called Stimela by the renowned South African musician and composer, Hugh Masekela. The eleventh line of the song’s live introduction ‘Deep, deep down in the belly of the earth’, captures the political unrest in then apartheid South Africa and suggests grief, pain and empathy for struggling Black men, immigrants and labourers who were not encouraged to express moments of weakness outwardly. Connecting the dots within his own life and relating with the characters in the song, Choto takes his viewers on a metaphoric journey of emotional transparency.

The expanse of space in each painting alludes to glimmers of hope amid long periods of suppressed emotions and the daily struggle with mental health. Choto places himself as the subject in most of his compositions, unveiling difficult periods in his life. The surface of the oil paintings is imbued with semi-hyper-real elements, accentuating the strategic use of negative space, and soulful beiges take on a therapeutic hue, the perfect muted background to contain the catharsis of each character.

‘Deep, Deep Down in the Belly of the Earth’ lays bare Choto’s vulnerabilities. It builds up layers of aesthetic compositions as simple as the experience and as complex as the emotions he tries to evoke.

The exhibition will be on view from the 11th of April until the 28th of May, 2023. For more information, please visit ADA Contemporary Art Gallery.

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