Nelson Makamo Solo Exhibition, London 2022

Nelson Makamo’s 1st solo exhibition with Increase Artwork ran from July 22 – August 25 in London’s Fitzrovia. Below, our Curator Phin Jennings displays on the demonstrate.

By Phin Jennings | 14 Dec 2022

Nelson Makamo | Photograph: Vitalij Sidorovic

“I see them, and they see me so I paint them.” It is early June, the commencing of winter in Johannesburg, and I am with Nelson Makamo in his studio. Laid out on the ground in front of us are close to 30 paintings and drawings, a new body of do the job for his to start with London solo exhibition in extra than five many years. He is conversing about the aspect of trade in his work: “and they see me.”

The way that Makamo’s people seem out at the viewer has develop into a recognisable characteristic of his drawings and paintings. Looking at them, I can truly feel my gaze currently being achieved by a subject that appears to be like back again at me. The men and women he attracts and paints – typically younger citizens of African villages – are engaged in a reciprocal marriage with the viewer when you see an artwork by Makamo, there is a feeling that you are currently being witnessed as well. Due to the fact of this, they involve additional treatment and attention than most portraits do.

At the exhibition’s opening reception, some months following I initially encountered the artworks in Makamo’s studio, I overheard a person conversing about their have experience of this experience: “Nelson’s get the job done just would make you cease.”

Untitled by Nelson Makamo | Image: Marco Bahler / BFA

This excellent of the artist’s get the job done is no accident. In acquiring them seem back again at the viewer, Makamo offers his subjects the agency that they are much too generally denied. Exterior of the artist’s work, African youngsters are usually depicted as becoming destitute and hopeless, a one-dimensional and voyeuristic narrative that dehumanises them by using away their means to determine them selves. There is a skewed balance of power, and no element of trade they are seemed at by the planet, but robbed of the means to return its gaze. Makamo redresses this balance by getting his topics satisfy the eye of the viewer, providing them back their personalities.

In this exhibition, our London viewers was uncovered to the sheer range of these personalities. The thirty three works on present depicted curiosity, defiance, melancholy, craving, generosity, pleasure, mischievousness and so a great deal additional. To me, Makamo’s get the job done is all about altering perceptions. My hope for this exhibition, the artist’s re-introduction to the British isles, is that visitors left with their perceptions of Africa adjusted, the exhausted trope of hopelessness changed with some of Makamo’s undiluted expressions of personality.

Completely Present, Untitled and Untitled by Nelson Makamo (courtesy of Marco Bahler / BFA) | Picture: Marco Bahler / BFA