The forthcoming exhibition of new works by Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga has been announced by October Gallery, London. This will be the artist’s second exhibition with the gallery following his astonishing inaugural presentation in 2016.
Kamuanga Ilunga explores the seismic shift in the economic, political and social identity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that have taken place since colonialism, in his work. Increasingly globalised, yet still devoutly Christian, much of the country completely rejects its multi-ethnic indigenous heritage. The artist’s own mother, a modern woman who supported and raised her large family alone, didn’t want him to undertake a research trip to visit people from her own ethnic grouping, considering them pagan, backwards and even dangerous! It is this loss of their traditional cultures that his listless figures seem to mourn, their bright fabrics hanging limply from their bodies, their hands clutching ritual objects whose functions seem less and less apparent. Today’s DRC is the world’s largest exporter of coltan, a raw material used in computer chips and mobile phones, and we see this ubiquitous marker of global modernity creeping across their skins. The monumental quality of the works makes the figures both heroic and elegiac. Yet, even as the Congolese fabrics painted as European drapery recount the developing story of the DR Congo of today the inter-dimensional ambiguity, between solidity and flatness, suggests an underlying anguish and emptiness.
The economy of porcelain which was used as the currency in the trading of slaves during the colonial era is the primary focus of Kamuanga Ilunga’s latest artistic work.
Kamuanga Ilunga’s work has been exhibited across Africa, notably at Dak’Art; Biennale OFF Senegal in 2014, and made its London debut at the Saatchi Gallery’s Panagaea II in 2015. The enormous excitement around the 24-year-old artist at London’s 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in 2015 and at New York’s Armory Show in 2016 was emphasised by an article in the FT’s How to Spend It, which employed his work ‘Lost’ to represent The Best of New York Armory, 2016. Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga was longlisted for the FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards 2016, and in 2017 his work was included in the exhibitions: African-Print Fashion Now! at the Fowler Museum, UCLA; I want! I want! Art and Technology at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, UK; and in the 249th Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Main Image Title: Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Disconnection (Series Mangbetu), 2017. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 180 cm x 196 cm. Courtesy October Gallery
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