Galerie Bwo is pleased to welcome Sesse Elangwe‘s new series of works entitled “The Defiant Ones” to its art space. Running until September 23, 2023, his exhibition takes a condensed approach to the essence of contemporary Cameroonian art. His new series of paintings deal with socio-cultural experiences, relating external notions such as space, identity and time through evocative subjects.
“The Defiant Ones” represents the artist’s very first solo exhibition in his homeland, following his two-year exile to escape the Anglophone crisis. The new body of work features characters painted in acrylic, whose contemporaneity seems in conversation with the colors. Sesse Elangwe uses simple details that belong to a certain temporal everydayness to attribute a precise visual referential to these creations. Thanks to his personal perspective, these clues to the space sown by the artist in his paintings reflect a shared experience that roots his work in fiery socio-cultural realities.
In his artistic practice, Sesse Elangwe combats racial norms by challenging structures and promoting empowerment. Using Nietzsche’s words to translate the artist’s message, we come up against the balance between strength and calm that his new collection of works conveys. His figures are similar to a contemporary reinterpretation of the Ubermensch, earthly beings both compassionate and implacable. This atmosphere of serenity engages viewers in empathetic discussions of societal norms.
The simplicity of the scenes contrasts with the direct, hard-hitting gaze offered by the subjects depicted on his canvases. The depth of the characters’ gaze is accentuated by their asymmetrical eyes, now a signature of Sesse Elangwe‘s creations. This expressive vision places visitors in a real-life societal context, encouraging them to get closer to this shared reality and project themselves into it.
The black pigmentation of the skin he attributes to his protagonists directs the public directly to a precise destination, enabling them to situate the thematic frontier of his creations. The dark color of the characters also helps to bring out the other bright colors in the paintings and accentuate the gravity of the painted subjects. Clothes and surroundings are used to accompany the subjects, accurately representing the changing realities in which these bodies evolve.
The humble, neutral compositions of the canvases allow an objective reading of the artist’s message, that of offering a voice and power to under-represented individuals. Sesse Elangwe is concerned with social issues, and uses his art to question societal norms, looking at why structures exist and how to thrive in these racially constrained conditions.
The Cameroonian artist’s solo exhibition “The Defiant Ones” depicts in images his personal life navigating between places and cultures, and reveals the similarities and dissimilarities perceived during his time in Cameroon and the USA. Sesse Elangwe has been accompanied since 2021 by the founders of Galerie Bwo, who are particularly pleased to present his work first. This interest in the artist stems from the concordance of his artistic career and research with the ideals and objectives of the art house. The exhibition therefore represents a perfect opportunity for the art gallery to discover themes it deems relevant to our times, notably the sense of belonging and identity.
Sesse Elangwe projects his life experiences onto his canvases, giving him a position of observer and critic in reference to the notions that define a society. Through his art, he immerses viewers and art-lovers in personal reflections on life and identity, while presenting an intimate glimpse into his journey. His canvases encourage contemplation and, like a glimmer of hope, invite the public to deep personal introspection.