Silentium by Sadikou Oukpedjo at Cécile Fakhoury09/03/2019 - 11/05/2019
Sadikou Oukpedjo is a visual artist born in Kétao, Togo in 1975. He lives and works in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The Cécile Fakhoury Gallery presents Silentium, the artist’s second solo exhibition in Abidjan until May 11, 2019.
After having developed an artistic practice focused on sculpture and assemblages at a very young age, Sadikou Oukpedjo began to paint on the fringes of his work as a sculptor and then multiplied his experiments with techniques and supports. From cement paper to pastels, from the use of chalks to painting on canvas, he creates works of new dimensions, the drawing being both modelled in the manner of wood and considered as a medium in its own right.
From 2014, upon his return from the Dakar Biennale, he began a series of works, whose hybrid figures will be exhibited in his first solo exhibition, Anima, at the Cécile Fakhoury Gallery in Abidjan in 2016. In Anima, Sadikou Oukpedjo presented a work on the human body, whose shaped forms testified to the physical and spiritual duality, half-man, half animal, of each of us. His works were intended to be a distorting, disturbing mirror to better reveal the essence of human life, that of a fragmented identity to be reinvented.
Sadikou Oukpedjo stands against silence through painting
When we look at Oukpedjo’s works, simple questions come to mind. However, these questions will prove to be more profound and even existential. Why all these animals? Why these hybrid characters, half human, half animal? Why nudity? How to understand it? Does the artist wish to expose human nature and reveal our most intimate contradictions? Why this strong hybridization between animals and humans in his compositions?
The paintings are raw, without detours, without aesthetic research at any cost. Complex and metaphorical. Large canvases in deep colours, speckled with picturesque, evanescent and even mythological characters. Oukpedjo’s compositions give a rupestrian, and even primitive, dimension to his works. A double presence of shapes and materials gives depth and light. In contrast to the darkness of the subjects treated. One, apparent, poultry (or a bird one cannot distinguish) in a cage as a head, on a human body, other hybrid characters remind us of centaurs from Greek mythologies except that here, these bodies are not half man, half horse but rather half human, half cattle animal or domesticated for their food consumption by humans (hens, guinea fowls, goats among others).
“The works created by Sadikou for the exhibition are really strong, and this Silentium series marks a milestone in the presentation of his work,” explains Francis Coraboeuf, curator at the Cécile Fakhoury gallery.
“The works are getting bigger and bigger without losing their intensity, his technique is still as powerful and delicate as ever. He conquers new territories: Sadikou is an intense creator, he devours the world, he uses every opportunity to assimilate techniques and knowledge, he is an artist in constant evolution, each exhibition, each work is the opportunity to appropriate a new territory, a technique not previously realized”.
Large canvases with deep colors that raise existential questions
Indeed, Oukpedjo’s paintings invite to philosophical reflections on the real human nature and the question of animality, like the two sides of the same coin. Embedded as if both – were – not without the other, each human possesses his animal in itself and both seem to fight to exist. What if each animal had a part of humanity in itself? If what defines mankind is consciousness and speech, then does the silence that results from the loss of previous attributes make the human being an animal? The artist invites us to hear the sound of silence, which he depicts as the new noise. He denounces an absence of sound, the contagion of an inner silence, silencing what should be said to others, but first to oneself. Which, by its violence, by its power, should be enough to break the wall of silence, the silence of our conscience. When the conscience is silent, man falls off his pedestal and loses the legitimacy of his superiority.
Some paintings feature accessories such as a gun held by a human body at the head of a guinea fowl, pointing at a man who seems to be begging for mercy. While on another painting, a new type of centaur – because the horse here is replaced by what appears to be an ox – offers a flower to a man who despises the look. The animals are presented in a naive innocence. Ready for sacrifice. The hybridization that seems sacrificial where it is not known which of the human or animal is sacrificed by the other in this incessant struggle.
The human condition: a universal discourse delivered by the artist
“In terms of discourse too, his message is increasingly strong and universal and when he speaks in this way of the human condition, of the suffering that man can inflict on man, I believe that many are touched in themselves.” says Francis.
Would the artist refer to the man who, devoured by his own animality and loss of consciousness, finds himself as described in the Leviathan of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who according to him, his life is lonely, destitute, disgusting, animal and brief? In this way, man could not be distinguished from an animal. Homo Homini lupus est – Man is a wolf for man. Or is it the past of slavery and colonialism, a period during which man was treated like a – wild animal – to be domesticated at all costs or to be sacrificed?
Francis continues, “The series of works was produced in Abidjan for the exhibition. Before creating these works, he spent several months in residence at the Cité des Arts in Paris, then made a detour to Lomé where he created a monumental sculpture installation for the Palais de Lomé, which will soon open its doors. On the gallery side this is Sadikou’s second solo exhibition in Abidjan and we will soon publish his first (modest) catalogue to mark the event.”
A discussion on animals consumption?
Sadikou Oukpedjo’s work, (we do not know if this was the artist’s intention), could raise an increasingly controversial issue in our contemporary societies, namely the consumption of animals. Do animals feel emotions? Do they feel fear, danger, compassion? Does that make them more human ? If mankind becomes an animal by losing consciousness and speech, does that mean that animals would have a part of humanity if they felt emotions? The appearance in the canvases almost exclusively of animals consumed by man ready to be sacrificed, while the man appears as the executioner leads us to ask ourselves which of the man or animal is really the monster. A responsibility that echoes the silence of Sadikou Oukpedjo’s characters.