Silentium: Sadikou Oukpedjo

9 March - 18 May 2019 ABIDJAN

After developing an artistic practice essentially based on sculpture and assemblage at an early age, Sadikou Oukpedjo went on to painting and diversifying his experiments. From cement paper to pastel highlights, from the use of chalk to paint on canvas, the artist has created artworks with a new dimension with drawing being both moulded in the style of wood and approached as a full-fledged medium.

 

Upon returning from the Dakar Biennale 2014, he began working on a series of hybrid figures that were later showcased in his first solo show, Anima, presented at Galerie Cécile Fakhoury - Abidjan in 2016.

In Anima, Sadikou Oukpedjo presented a body of work focusing on the human body whose moulded shapes were a testimony to the physical and spiritual duality, half-human and half-animal, found in each of us. His works were designed as a distorting mirror, unsettling, but only to better reveal the essence of human life and of a fragmented identity destined to be reinvented.

 

In Silentium, the artist returns to the figure of the animal to bring to light our most intimate contradictions.

 

While our modern mythologies are based on the divine gift of speech expected to elevate human beings from their animal condition, mankind often fails to meet this challenge.

 

Offering with one hand the power of words and implementing with the other the fundamental prohibition to name him, the divine roots speech within an original silence, thereby sealing the joint destiny of might and helplessness.

 

Since speech has lost its power to act, Sadikou Oukpedjo sets his paintings against this silence. Through his work, he denounces a resounding absence, a contagious internal mutism that silences all that should be said not only to others, but also to ourselves in the first place; words whose violence and strength would otherwise suffice to break the wall of silence and the silence of our consciousness. 

 

When the consciousness becomes quiet, mankind falls from its pedestal and loses the legitimacy of its superiority. The metamorphosis that occurs before our eyes testifies to the urgency of a paradigm shift. This silence must be heard and acknowledged for us to reclaim an authentic humane voice and to regain the performative nature of speech.

 

Set in a delicate balance between being and nothingness, the evanescent figures arising from his canvases seem to be fighting against their own disappearance. Mankind is absorbed in a hand-to-hand combat with his double nature, a struggle with no winner. Inherently part of its being, the animal side now represents its fall just as well as its rise.

 

The silhouettes attempt to square the weight of their gravity with the unbearable lightness of their silence. Between relief and frustration, the deep colors Sadikou Oukpedjo uses reveal our own asperities, our eternal duplicity, and our unavoidable responsibility.