ruby onyinyechi amanze, Douglas Rodrigo Rada, Helô Sanvoy & Shoshanna Weinberger: Mutations

30 May - 16 August 2014

Tiwani Contemporary presents Mutations, an exhibition showcasing recent works on paper by four international artists: ruby onyinyechi amanze (Nigeria/US), Douglas Rodrigo Rada (Bolivia), Helô Sanvoy (Brazil), and Shoshanna Weinberger (Jamaica/US). All artists have exhibited frequently and across the globe, though this is the first time that their work has been shown in the UK.

amanze, Sanvoy, Rada and Weinberger follow distinct conceptual trajectories and approaches to drawing. The works in the exhibition are broadly diverse in technique, scale and imagery, but share an interest in pushing the boundaries of drawing as a medium and in asking essential questions around fixed categories of both forms and identities. Drawing (a line) is, by essence, defining a threshold, however the works in Mutations focus on the hybrid, the liminal, the fragmented and the de-centered as fundamental elements of the human experience, and as devices to probe the possibilities of the medium. Notwithstanding the plurality of their practices, the artists in the exhibition posit their inquisitive approach to the ever-evolving medium of drawing as a vehicle to explore ideas around shifting identities, hybridity and alterity.

ruby onyinyechi amanze's works on paper feature a bestiary of wild animals, ghost-like figures, alien entities and architectural elements, often connected by modular constellations of bridges and nodes. The works in the exhibition were triggered by amanze’s longest trip to Nigeria (where she was born), as a Fulbright fellow in 2012. There, she conceived ada, an alien alter ego often present in the work and whose evident alterity echoes amanze’s own experience of (non-)belonging. A reflection on the diasporic experience, and rooted in the genre of Afro-futurism, her drawings envision speculative narratives of self-discovery, supernatural existence and spatio-temporal escapism to evoke ideas around cultural hybridity, belonging and displacement.

Douglas Rodrigo Rada's Metamorphosis (2011) was inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ Dr Brodie’s Report (1971), the tale of a Scottish Presbyterian missionary’s encounter with a faraway society, whose members practice cannibalism and devour their king’s corpse. The series also draws upon Ovid’s eponymous epic poems, which have exerted a vast influence on European art and inspired artists such Titian, Michelangelo and Caravaggio. Rada’s pencil drawings, detailed studies of truncated male bodies in various states of torsion, display a fragmented physicality that suggests the impossibility of a unified self, and a conspicuous sense of 'otherness' that questions the purpose and perception of the post-modern human body.

Helô Sanvoy's work often features linear patterns, which may have the aspect of written data, but are in fact impossible to decipher. In Cyclopaedia (2013) Sanvoy's text is inscrutable. Covered by nebulous shadows of graphite, it highlights the artist's interest in 'word as image' and the relationship between drawing and writing. The textural darkness of the graphite reveals anthropomorphic shapes and sketches of objects: ghost-like figures of anatomical studies, diagrams and notes that recall the work of Andreas Vesalius, Juan Valverde de Amusco and Leonardo da Vinci. Produced by an accumulative process, building up and deleting layers of graphite at once, the work embraces the permeable states of text and its elasticity vis-à-vis subjectivities and memory. Prevailing throughout is a nagging sense of ambivalence towards language, communication, and a play between memory and forgetfulness.

Shoshanna Weinberger’s gouaches explore the cultural contingency of beauty and the idea of 'otherness' in relation to hybrid corporeality, race and gender. Her blacked-out silhouettes, grotesque caricatures of hyper-sexualised female figures, all bright lips and protruding bosoms, envision the black female body as a monstrous, erotically violent entity, radically at odds with Western ideals of beauty. Ligatured, and amputated, endowed with multiplying limbs but no head, these mutant Venuses embody the historical myth of a deviantly sexual black female body, which has influenced Western representations of black women for centuries, from Saartje Baartman to Nicki Minaj.