15 December 1999 - 1 April 2000
This show represents the culmination of twenty-one years of work by the October Gallery in seeking out and promoting those artists from around the world who, as well as representing the forefront of their own particular cultures, are, at the same time, alive to the shifting currents of other cultures and to the development of a trans-national and truly global culture.
Inner Visions - Artists of the Peruvian Amazon
3 November - 11 December 1999
Paintings by four visionary artists from Peru ~ the first two shaman/artists, the third an artist whose works are informed by the magical traditions of the land in which he was raised and the fourth representing the next generation.
Ablade Glover - New Works
8 September - 9 October 1999
Sacred Visions - Art of The Huichol Indians of Mexico
6 September - 30 September 2000
The Huichol Indians of Mexico are one of the oldest surviving indigenous tribes of pre-Hispanic origin, tracing their lineage, across some 3500 years of history, back to the Olmecs. They are also related to the Hopi and Ute Indians of the south-western United States. What makes the Huichol cultural heritage so unique is the survival of their spiritual traditions, virtually intact, through to the present day despite over 500 years of persecution following the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica in the 15th Century. Following the arrival of the ‘Conquistadors,’ the Huichols moved from the desert plains that had been their homeland for millennia to seek refuge in the inaccessible and isolated mountains of the Sierra Madre. Here, they have maintained their powerful spiritual practices and, until recently, have had little contact with the outside world. Today with fewer than 8000 people living in five autonomous communities the Huichols' ancient life-style is again under threat, this time by the influxes of a modern world that is once more encroaching on their sacred sites - and sacred sights.
The exhibition Sacred Visions: Contemporary Art of the Huichol Indians of Mexico will take place in conjunction with this year's Sacred Voices Music Village. This recurring annual festival of music will present outstanding international musicians from each of the principal religions and other traditional belief systems in a major international celebration. As in previous years, the October Gallery will be the launch venue for the Music Village Festival and will host a varied programme of lunchtime and evening concerts.
The Sacred Visions exhibition will explore the contemporary art of the Huichol Indians, focusing on their yarn paintings, beaded sculptures and masks. It will include work by a selection of outstanding Huichol artists, each representing a different strand of contemporary Huichol art. The artists to be shown will include Alejandro, from Santa Catarina in the Sierra Madre, who, as a jicarero, belongs to a select group in his community responsible for the organisation of all the group’s ritual activities. His proximity to the mara'akame, or shaman, attests to the exceptional purity of the symbolism found in his potent work; Mariano Valadez, the son of a shaman, who, adopted and raised by a Mexican family, started to incorporate outside influences into his work. Together with his wife, Susanna Valadez, he founded the Huichol Cultural Centre in Santiago, Nayarit, and is one of the leading 'interpreters' of Huichol culture to the outside world; and the artist Mota Aopohua, living and working in Mexico City, whose work portrays the increasing complexity of contemporary yarn painting. Aopohua was recently commissioned to create and install a large beaded mural that is now in place outside the Louvre in Paris. The exhibition will also include work by José Benitez Sanchez.
Romero Britto: - Neo-Pop Cubism
12 May - 19- June 1999
Born in Brazil and now based in the United States, Romero Britto combines elements of cubism, pop art and graffiti painting in his work. The success of his nearly decade-long association as a showcase artist with Absolut Vodka’s world-wide advertising campaign (which also included Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf) acted as an important catalyst to his career. His work has appeared in numerous publications in the United States and internationally, including Art in America, the New York Times Magazine and Arts & Antiques. He has exhibited widely, particularly in the USA, Europe and Japan, and has worked on commissions for Grand Marnier, Pepsi - Cola and the Swiss Bank, New York, amongst many others. His work has been collected by celebrities such as Whitney Houston, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jordan as well as by John F. Kennedy Jr. and the late François Mitterand.
In Britto’s highly energetic paintings and silk-screens the vibrant and bold, sub-tropical colours are separated and accentuated by thick black lines. With satire and humour, Britto provides evidence of a close affinity to Warhol and Lichtenstein. By controlled repetition of certain themes, Britto’s work provides a vista upon the central concerns of his own life. Born in Recife, a mostly poor, agriculturally based city in Brazil, Britto sees art as a vehicle for carrying messages of joy and the celebration of life, counteracting the desolate environments of poverty, pain and sickness.
Marked by his experiences amongst the Brazilian poor, Britto's continuing concern for the suffering has made him a generous donor to numerous charitable causes. He has produced a major mural with the children of St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia, USA, as well as supporting Amnesty International, the Red Cross, the American Cancer Society and others together with fundraising events for AIDS and the maintenance of the rainforest in Brazil. He decorated the inaugural Earth Train USA in 1992, which carried 200 youth leaders, celebrities and environmental experts on a 12-day trip from Los Angeles to New York and Washington D.C..
London's own Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, is also to benefit from Britto's first appearance in a UK gallery, with the acquisition of a mural by Britto to brighten the hospital's inner courtyard. This famous hospital for children, situated next to the October Gallery, will also have a workshop led by the artist for child patients as part of the October Gallery.
On the night of the Private View there will be an auction of sketches of the mural for the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Many celebrities and other hospital patrons are expected to attend this event, the proceeds of which will go to benefit the charity.
Beauty Ravishes Me All Over Wherever I Find It
24 March - 8 May 1999
The title for this mixed exhibition is taken from a line that Moliere puts in the mouth of his Don Juan. The exhibition features a selection of the haunting Wandjina paintings by Aboriginal artists from the Australian Kimberly, vibrant ‘yarn paintings’ by the Huichol Indians from Mexico and visionary works by shamans from the Peruvian Amazon. Outstanding work by other artists from Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania are also featured - making the exhibition a sampling of the finest in contemporary art from all four corners of the world.
Wandjina is a generic term referring to the spirit ancestors of the Australian peoples who presently inhabit the Kimberley. The spirit figure represented is the embodiment of the rain spirit which is the ancestor of the Woonambal people. These large static images are broadly painted on a dense white background using red, yellow and black pigments. Found on the walls of caves in the Kimberley, they are invariably shown front-on, generally solid, either head and shoulder or full-length, with large black eyes and a slit or beak-like nose but without mouths. Dreamtime mythology has it that the Wandjina emerged from the clouds, and will return in that form. Other versions suggest that Dumbi, the owl, prominent in some of the stories is the model.
What makes the cultural heritage of Mexico's Huichol Indians so unique, is the survival of the Huichol's spiritual traditions, virtually intact, despite 500 yearsof persecution following the 15th Century conquest of Mesoamerica by the Spanish conquistadors. This exhibition presents contemporary examples of their art in which coloured yarns are used 'to paint.'
Paintings by the two Peruvian Amazon shamans reveal the complex web of interconnected relationships that mankind maintains with the environment that he inhabits. These are vividly detailed works depicting signs, symbols, animals, plants and mythological beings and providing an unusual glimpse into the world of the shaman. One sees, in these paintings, the living 'spirits' of beneficial as well as harmful plants, both of which are wise guardians of ancient knowledge. These works underscore the importance of maintaining a healthy biosphere in which humans live in harmony with the natural world which is their life support system.
Contemporary art from Oceania explores the many novel experiences of modern urban life in contrast to the daily life of the indigenous peoples of the islands. In Melanesia such contemporary art grows alongside the older traditional tribal arts, which celebrate and maintain inherited traditions of the highly diverse cultures.
Africa being a vast continent is a huge repository of artistic traditions both ancient and modern. This exhibition includes powerful wooden sculptures by one of Africa’s most eminent artists, El Anatsui, contemporary oil paintings by the Ghanaian Ablade Glover whose heavily impastoed oils glow with vibrant movement and colour, as well as the more traditional thread works offered as protective talismans by the Nigerian artist Z. O. Oloruntoba, prints on handmade paper by Tunde Odunlade, and wooden carvings by Twins Seven Seven, both equally from Nigeria.
Xu Zhongmin, China, depicts delirious cityscapes in his extraordinary large panels of carved wood, whereas Kenji Yoshida, Japan, links East and West in his inspiring metaphysical works.
The exhibition also includes simple black and white prints on Tosa paper by Eileen Schaer, who employs the old technique of the European woodcut. From Europe also are the stunning visual poems of colour and force of the Transvangarde Austrian painter Elisabeth Lalouschek.
All these diverse perspectives unite at the October Gallery, between the 25th March and 8th May, in a celebration of "ravishing beauty" from around the world.
New Colours from Old Worlds: - Contemporary Art from West Africa
27 January - 20 March 1999
New Colours from Old Worlds: Contemporary Art from West Africa focused on some of Africa’s most exciting and outstanding of contemporary artists. Most notably these include the Ghanaian sculptor, El Anatsui, who is emerging as one of Africa’s leading sculptors, and whose recent solo exhibition at the October Gallery was accompanied by the publication of a book: El Anatsui: A Sculpted History of Africa. Two large wooden sculptures Split Personality and Man Resplendent Pissing Around the World - so far unshown in the UK, formed the centre-pieces of the exhibition. Besides these central installations four other works in wood by the same artist were to be found on the walls. There were also four pieces, including two of his most recent work, by Ablade Glover, whose thickly impastoed work with the palette knife reflects the vibrant colours of the Ghanaian marketplace; work by Twins Seven Seven, one of Nigeria’s best-known painters and musicians; new work by Emmanuel Taiwo Jegede (UK/Nigeria), sculptor, poet, painter and musician; silk thread talismans and charms that are considered by Chief Z. O. Oloruntoba to be powerful incantations to the spirits and new work by Tunde Odunlade comprising large-scale pieces of batik stitched in relief on African cloth. This was wonderful work on thick handmade paper that has a unique and highly sensuous tactile quality. The above artists have all been exhibited by the Gallery before, but the striking work of Henrietta Atooma Alele, from the West Niger Delta region, who contributed two oil paintings on canvas, was exhibited for the first time.