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The Angolan-Portuguese art gallery THIS IS NOT A WHITE CUBE, in partnership with The Africa Center, is pleased to announce the holding of the first solo exhibition by Santomean artist René Tavares in London.

René Tavares, Meeting to hear the Atlantic Sound, 2023. Oil, pigment, charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 175 x 205cm. Courtesy of the artist and THIS IS NOT A WHITE CUBE Gallery.

Entitled ‘PORTRAITS FOR ENGLISH TO SEE’, the exhibition opens on October 9th at The Africa Center. It is curated by the acclaimed Angolan architect and curator Paula Nascimento, winner of the 2013 Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the Venice Biennale. The exhibition presents six new works, part of René Tavares’ most recent and iconic painting series – “Portraits for English to See” and “Cotton People Reloaded” – resulting from a production and research process that crosses the fields of archive photography and painting.

The title comes from an old Portuguese idiomatic expression, “for English to see”, which appeared in Brazil in the 1830s when England called on that country to enact legislation to stop the slave trade. Unfortunately, the regulatory measures passed at the time had an insignificant impact. However, the expression persisted over time as a synonym of superficiality, being rescued with this same meaning by the artist to highlight themes deeply interconnected with historical and socio-political issues that shaped the construction of several African nations.

By questioning assimilated, neglected and forgotten legacies and by challenging the rigidity of categories and prejudices, René Tavares aims, through his work, to increase awareness and trigger processes of resilience and social empowerment.

The series presented in this exhibition stands out for their grand scale and the skilful manipulation of paints and powdered pigments, with which the artist creates landscapes with cotton fields and malleable surfaces, which often take on an earthy appearance. The persistence of the concept of layer and the idea of miscegenation defines the capital structure of René Tavares’ work, where the artist repeatedly introduces apparent conceptual combinations, crossed cultural and heritage references and composite plastic solutions.

René Tavares occupies a central position in the artistic panorama of São Tomé and is a prominent figure in the contemporary art system in the Portuguese-speaking geographic space. Its visibility has grown in Africa and internationally over the past few years.

As part of the presentation of this exhibition, on October 13th, at 7 pm, The Africa Center will host a conversation with the artist entitled ‘Unfinished Histories’. The event constitutes a unique opportunity to meet René Tavares and to deepen knowledge about the central elements of his artistic practice, as well as interact with some of the most relevant and influential curatorial and cultural voices working with Africa and the creative scene of its diaspora: Angolan architect and curator Paula Nascimento, who participates as a speaker, and independent curator, British academic and researcher Paul Goodwin, who speaks as moderator.

The exhibition will be on view from the 9th until the 29th of October, 2023, at The Africa Center. For more information, please visit The Africa Center and THIS IS NOT A WHITE CUBE.

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