Sulger-Buel Gallery presents of Men and Lives, a solo exhibition by mixed media painter and sculptor Soly Cissé (*1969, Senegal). Cissé’s artworks are profoundly inspired by and contextualized through his upbringing. He grew up during an epoch of transition, following Senegal’s period of social and political unrest, where art served as mode of social activism and self-expression for the disenfranchised persons. His work, like a portal where the imagined and physical realms convene, intuitively explores notions of duality and repetition; tradition and modernity, the spiritual and the secular.
“I think and reflect a lot about humans and their relationships. Relationships between humans, the confrontation between humans and nature, humans and religion and then I challenge myself and experiment.”
Cissé’s spontaneous painterly movements, textured accents and neo-expressionistic techniques form depictions reflective of the dissolution of society’s moral thresholds, shifts attributable to globalization and modernization. Shapeless human characters distort into anthropomorphic shadows of the other self; identities lost in translation from the past to the contemporary and abstract lines and bold strokes of contrasting hues intersect, creating a layered configuration of Cissé’s mythical visions.
Cissé graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Dakar, in 1996. He has had numerous exhibitions in galleries and museums in Europe, the Americas and throughout Africa. Cissé’s recent exhibitions include Les Mutants, Musée Dapper, Paris; Lumi res d’Afriques, African Artists for Development, Palais de Chaillot, Paris (2015); and Solycolor, Musée des Arts Derniers, Paris (2009). His work also featured in the seminal exhibition Africa Remix (2004-2007), Dak’Art – Biennale de l’Art African Contemporain (2006), the Havana Biennial (2000) and Sao Paulo Biennial, Brazil (1998). He is listed by Forbes as among the top 100 contemporary African Artists based on monetary value alone.
Men and Lives presents a selection of Cissé’s recent work unified by the representation of bodily forms and aligned to questions about what is it that makes us human, after all.
Men and Lives sees this contemporary master interrogating some of the darker reaches of the psyche, though, as ever with Cissé’s work, imbued with humour and irony. His paintings sometimes show groupings of two or three figures who seem to be refraining from conversation or interaction, as though consumed by their own thoughts or search for some hoped-for “inner identity” not accessible to others. At other times he reveals a seeming procession of human forms, some overlapping and some set apart; again, each element stands apart even as they enter each other’s space. In some paintings, the canvas is divided into two registers or segment, at once seeming to be in conflict but nonetheless harmonised aesthetically, as if the artist is seeking for an impossible unity between fraught human relations.
Cissé’s incomparable understanding of the relation of line to the fulfilment of form (as well as a subtle use of detail in the form of pattern and crosshatch) can be seen in the works on Men and Lives. At over four metres wide, the astonishing canvas Untitled (Triptych) of 2018 shows the artist developing this subtle message of the relationship between the human and the lived at a magisterial level and forms a central axis for the exhibition as a whole.
Complemented by figurative sculpture, Soly Cissé’s latest exhibition at Sulger-Buel Gallery allows viewers to experience deeply philosophical, engaging yet accessible work by an outstanding contemporary painter of international repute.