Méné, Family, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 121 x 151cm.

Méné: ‘Time is Love’ at Out of Africa Gallery

A very sunny group show, in the grayness of our days, gives us the colour, light and comfort that we so badly need! Three African artists – Henri Abraham Univers, Prince Galla Gnohité, Méné – put love, happy vitality and sweet dreams in the spotlight.

Méné, My reflect, 2019. Acrylic on canvas, 94 x 122cm.Méné, My reflect, 2019. Acrylic on canvas, 94 x 122cm.

MÉNÉ

Born 1977, Ivory Coast. Lives and works in Dabou, Ivory Coast.

Méné continues to promenade the improbable silhouettes of his characters through his work and through our lives and we are grateful for the sweetness and the colour he gives them. A graduate of INSAAC (Abidjan School of Fine Arts) and certified professor of fine arts, Méné goes his way, without unnecessary hype, but with stubbornness and talent.

More and more art collectors appreciate his many talents that are expressed in his high quality painted works. With Méné it’s about painting, the artist has never departed from this medium to express his feelings, visions, dreams and his moments of melancholy. Painting is surely his way of expressing emotions, a man in his forties, who does not speak much, is sparing in his gestures, laughter and tears. Everything is in the richly coloured work, he has pursued for years.

We know him for his use of various supports, paper, canvas, plastic sheeting on which painters in the building had left. Everything is good for him then, by the magic of colour, reinterpret things and give them the turn he wanted.

Méné, Family, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 121 x 151cm.Méné, Family, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 121 x 151cm.

Behind the apparent disorder of his works, one can find not only an excellent technical mastery but also an attention to the composition which is all the more remarkable. The balance of the materials is really not random, nor is the chromaticism of the palette; it obeys a harmony that, without being classical, is absolutely undeniable. The artist’s success is in the ordering of apparent disorder and the works exhibited here are large enough to make this clear to the observer.

Although there are some in profile, most of his characters are presented from the front. All of Méné’s works are inhabited by humanoid characters, often said to have descended from some flying saucer, and yet they seem to belong to the same world as ourselves. Because it’s the human condition that’s in question here, of man, his kingdom, his community and his immediate environment.

The titles of these paintings are very evocative and reinforce our feelings of well-being and recognition. So is it with his Earth of Men, that the artist in his beatitude tells us, or in Land of Love, that these places that will never be dark, these spaces of freedom where the artist reflects, indicate a fundamental optimism which, while not overstated is no less sensitive and easily perceptible. There is at least, by exception, A vision of another world, whose hosts are more birds or fish than humans. This world is not scary, it is just different, other, and it does not seem to affect the artist anymore; he does not suggest anything to us, allowing us to draw our own conclusions. Blues or pastels invite our eyes and suggest other approaches of these spaces of which only the artist has the key.

Méné, Terre des Hommes 2, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 130 x 130cm.Méné, Terre des Hommes 2, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 130 x 130cm.

Dream World, the title given to this series is very consistent despite the apparent dissimilarities among the works. Is it a world the artist saw in a dream and hastened to transpose it on the canvas or is it the world he dreams of but has never seen? No one will ever know if it’s a vision of the past or future that it thus offers to our lust and to the lucubrations of our souls.

The colourful universe of Méné transports us and gives us so much pleasure, so many pretexts for sweet dreams that we are ready to follow, without thinking too much of the consequences, because we know his benevolence as a man and as an artist.

In this state of suspension of the active consciousness in which he engulfs us, crossing his universe brings us joy, strength and beauty and, somewhere, helps us to forget the real world that surrounds us and that makes us too rarely happy. Let us hasten to embark on this sweet ferry, like a boat on the limpid and quiet ocean and trust the rower, he knows the pitfalls, he knows the currents, he knows the way, he is initiated”.

The exhibition is on view at Out of Africa Gallery (OOA) until the 2nd of May 2021.

Sylvain Sankale is an art critis based in Dakar, Senegal.