René Tavares: Portraits for English to See

The Africa Centre, London, United Kingdom
09 Oct 2023 - 29 Oct 2023

René Tavares, GRAND MA'S TREASURES (detail), 2023. Copyright The Artist

René Tavares, GRAND MA'S TREASURES (detail), 2023. Copyright The Artist

This is Not a White Cube, in partnership with The Africa Centre, is proud to announce the debut solo exhibition of Santomean artist René Tavares. Entitled Portraits for English to See, the exhibition will premiere on October 9th at The Africa Centre, and 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 features seven new works that are part of René Tavares’ most recent and iconic painting series – Portraits for English to See and Cotton People Reloaded – the result of a production and research process that crosses the fields of archive photography and painting.

The title comes from the old Portuguese saying para inglês ver (for English to see), which emerged in Brazil in the 1830s when Britain called on the country to enact legislation to restrain the slave trade. Unfortunately, the regulatory measures promulgated at the time had an insignificant impact. However, the expression has persisted over time as a synonym for superficiality, being revived by the artist with this very meaning to highlight themes that are deeply intertwined with the historical and socio-political issues that have moulded the construction of various African nations.

By questioning heritage that has been assimilated, neglected and forgotten and challenging the rigidity of categories and prejudices, René Tavares aims to raise awareness and trigger processes of resilience and social empowerment through his work.

The series presented in this exhibition are notable for their grandiose 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 layer and miscegenation concepts define the capital structure of René Tavares’ work, where the artist repeatedly introduces unavoidable conceptual combinations, cross-cultural and heritage references and composite plastic solutions.

René Tavares occupies a central position in the Santomean art scene and stands as a prominent figure within the contemporary art landscape of the Lusophone geographic space. In recent years, his visibility has surged both across Africa and internationally.

As part of the presentation of this exhibition, on October 13th, at 7 pm, The Africa Centre will host an artist talk entitled Unfinished Histories, through which we will delve into the core elements of Tavares’ artistic practice. The event is a unique opportunity to meet Tavares and deepen the understanding of the central elements of his artistic practice, as well as to interact with some of the most relevant and influential curatorial and cultural voices working with Africa and the art scene of its diaspora: Angolan architect and curator Paula Nascimento, participating as speaker, and British independent curator, academic and researcher Paul Goodwin, acting as moderator.

The exhibition will be on display until October 29th at The Africa Centre (66 Great Suffolk St, London SE1 0BL), from Tuesday to Saturday, between 10 am and 6 pm, and on Sundays, between 10 am and 4 pm. Admission is free.




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