Of Ghostly Silences and Constant Yearnings: Jess Atieno - ABIDJAN

16 April - 18 June 2022 ABIDJAN

Galerie Cécile Fakhoury is pleased to present Jess Atieno’s solo exhibition, Of Ghostly Silences and Constant Yearnings


"Any turn we make towards aesthetics will inevitably return to a language of the ghostly [1]". Like a river that flows through the gallery, these words echo the artist's research into the postcolonial through historical images and their contemporary manifestations. Silhouettes, faces, crowds and landscapes become the subject of Atieno's work and that take presence in the exhibition.


In her works, the artist fragments images in a sensitive balance between politics and poetry. She questions the original image in the very essence that led to its creation: violence and the colonial gaze in which bodies become trapped, mute and passive. Atieno's work offers theses bodies agency. Taken out of their context and fragmented by the artist, they present a refusal, and demand to be deciphered and re-imagined. The visual juxtaposition of elements create a sensitive yet intuitive proxemia: the black body intertwined with the land represented by the map. The land to which one belongs; the colonized land which then becomes the colonized body. A poignant investigation into the ideas of place and belonging. 


The process of screen printing becomes vital in understanding the work in that it requires fragmenting the images to construct them again. The artist prints images onto fabric and then intervenes in successive layers of patterns and colors creating the image anew, and hence a new reading of the work. The presence of the original form, like a spectrum inhabiting the pictorial space, remains, rising from the past in its new color setting: it becomes an afterimage. So, just as the sun spot remains in the eye long after one has looked away, Atieno instills in our minds the bewitching presence of these beings, inviting us to explore the shifting space between the historical and the aesthetic, between the factual and the fantastic. 

[1] Quote taken from the in situ installation realized for the show in Abidjan.