Omar Ba “Same Dream” at The Power Plant, Toronto
Curator: Nabila Abdel Nabi, Associate Curator
Omar Ba’s work engages with some of the most urgent issues of our time: the growing inequality of wealth and power globally, questions around immigration, and our changing relationship with the natural world. His penchant for depicting personal narratives alongside collective ones speaks to the“in-between” condition of his work, as he splits his time between Dakar, Senegal and Geneva, Switzerland, and blends the visual texture of both places through his practice. Ba draws from and intertwines a range of elements— the historical and contemporary, figurative and abstract imagery—from African and European cultures, and the techniques and tools he employs; including corrugated cardboard and canvas, paintbrushes and his hands. Additionally, Ba’s chosen materials are typically selected from his immediate surroundings and repurposed in creative ways. He prepares his surfaces—whether cardboard, canvas or wall—with a black ground, upon which he layers a vivid palette dominated by primary colours. His paintings teem with details as micro-worlds transpire within larger constellations, oscillating between bold planes of colour and intricate outlines, which unravel across their surfaces. The figures and forms portrayed are largely symbolic, referring not to specific individuals, but rather open to universal narratives.
Same Dream brings together several of Ba’s paintings depicting dictators and authority figures, who lead corrupt and violent regimes across the African continent and in other parts of the world, particularly where the legacies of colonialism persist. At times represented as hybrid beasts—part human, part animal— these despotic warlords are typically enveloped in an abundance of lush flora and fauna. Indeed, nature becomes a recurring force across Ba’s oeuvre. These biomorphic shapes are often inspired by Senegal’s dazzling coastal environment in which Ba grew up. In conversation with this group of paintings, the exhibition also presents works that reveal Ba’s affinity for portraying the strength of the human spirit –depictions of youth who, regardless of where they are, share some of the same dreams for the future. For the exhibition at The Power Plant, Ba has developed a new large-scale work directly on the walls of the gallery, exploring a recurrent motif of birth, death and reincarnation across different cultures today.
The world of Omar Ba’s painting is a hybrid one, ultimately evoking a shared cosmogony between humans, plants and animals.
Same Dream is Omar Ba’s first institutional solo exhibition in North America.
at The Power Plant, Toronto
until 12 May 2019