Roméo Mivekannin: The Act Of Representation Through Visual Quotes18/09/2020 - 28/11/2020
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury will be presenting the first solo exhibition of the Beninese artist Roméo Mivekannin in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from September 18, 2020 to November 28, 2020.
A questioning of the invisible and the hidden
for his first solo exhibition in Africa at the Cécile Fakhoury Gallery, Roméo Mivekannin uses an eloquent plastic quotation process. From one work to the next, the compositions of the canvases are in constant dialogue with a complex visual history made of direct references to classical painting and to the images of Épinal that defined the representation of blacks in 19th century Europe. Faced with the inability to identify himself with these images and to establish a filiation with these narratives of history, Roméo Mivekannin inserts himself into these regimes of representation, substituting his own portrait for those of the original black characters. The repeated appearance of the artist’s face, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes hidden in the crowds of extras, is disturbing.
The exhibition presents a dozen large-format works never before shown to the public. The artist draws his inspiration from photographic archives or iconic paintings emblematic of the history of Western art. From Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Slave Sale (1873) to Gustave Manet’s Olympia (1863), via the first photographic portraits of the colonial monarchies of the second half of the 19th century, Roméo Mivekannin focuses particularly on the ambiguous representations of black figures, sources of both fascination and fear, sometimes anonymised, eroticized or objectified and intended for the almost exclusive eye of a male and Euro-centric viewer.
Like an uncompromising assertion, repetition embodies his desire to reappropriate a visibility regime from which he had until then been excluded. In Mivekannin’s work, the act of representation is thus an intimate ritual of accession to identity. Each work has its own historical time. In his works, Roméo Mivekannin thus questions the invisible and the hidden. He brings to light the workings of representation that carry the systems of domination and introduces a subtle critique, on the borderline between rewriting a collective memory and repairing a personal identity fracture.
Born in Bouaké (Ivory Coast) in 1986, Roméo Mivekannin lives and works between Toulouse (France) and Cotonou (Benin). At the crossroads of inherited tradition and the contemporary world, Roméo Mivekannin integrates his creations within an ancestral temporality, making his own rituals, echoing the voodoo cosmology, very present in Benin. In the image of an initiation rite, the artist dips the sheets that will compose the background of his works in different baths of ritual solutions, elixir baths, whose composition is known only to him. Then comes the time of painting. In the voodoo tradition,” explains the artist, “each god corresponds to a deceased ancestor. When one wears the mask of one of these gods, of a person who has lived, it is an act of liberation”. Some of them having been buried in certain places of the world, related to the history of colonization. The proper time of these sheets, themselves inherited and worn out, is then mixed with the temporalities evoked by the subjects of his paintings. Memory and time thus become the very matter of his works, their technique.