“My work reflects the African diaspora and the forms of métissage that have taken place; it also reflects my creative process as an artist in the rhythm of a métissage that straddles times, places and media, diluting the watertight boundaries between domains.” It is with this discursive approach that René Tavarès presents his first solo exhibition in the UK, entitled “PORTRAITS FOR ENGLISH TO SEE“, at the Africa Center gallery. The exhibition, which will run until 29 October, will give the artist an opportunity to share his exclusive art practice with the English public.
René Tavarès is one of the leading figures on the Santomean art scene, and a key figure on the contemporary art scene in the Portuguese-speaking world. The artist’s reputation has grown considerably in recent years, both in Africa and internationally. Her exhibition is organised in partnership with the This is not a White Cube gallery, curated by Paula Nascimento, a renowned Angolan architect and curator who won the Golden Lion in 2013 for her national contribution to the Venice Biennale. “PORTRAITS FOR ENGLISH TO SEE” presents new creations by René Tavarès, including a selection of seven works from his most recent series of paintings, including “Portraits for English to See” and “Cotton People Reloaded“. These emblematic canvases are the result of a production and research process that combines archival photography and painting.
The title of the exhibition was inspired by the old Portuguese saying “para inglês ver“, which first appeared in Brazil in the 1830s when Great Britain called on the country to pass legislation to restrict the slave trade. However, this initiative had negligible impact and the expression was retained, much more as a synonym for superficiality. René Tavarès uses the secondary context inspired by the adage to highlight notions that are deeply linked to the historical and socio-political issues that have shaped the construction of the various African nations. In his exhibition, the Santomean artist calls into question inherited and neglected heritage, while questioning the rigidity of categories and prejudices. Through his art, René Tavarès aims to raise awareness and encourage processes of resilience and empowerment in contemporary society.
The series of works exhibited at the Africa Center art space stand out for their large scale and appropriate use of paints and powdered pigments, which give life to invigorating landscapes. The canvases present panoramas, sometimes familiar, such as cotton fields and flexible surfaces, which often take on an earthy tone. This visually striking and revealing background defines the essential structure of René Tavares‘ work. It is made up of a broad conceptual combination, intercultural and heritage references, and composite plastic solutions that reinforce the identity and belonging of his works.
As part of the exhibition “PORTRAITS FOR ENGLISH TO SEE“, the contemporary art space Africa Center is organising a conference entitled “Unfinished stories“. This event offers the public and art lovers alike an opportunity to interact with René Tavarès and learn more about his innovative artistic practice. Other speakers at the conference will include British independent curator, academic and researcher Paul Goodwin, who will act as moderator, and Angolan architect and curator Paula Nascimento, who will speak at the event. Other curatorial and cultural voices from influential and relevant figures working on Africa and the art scene in its diaspora will also be present.