EDDY KAMUANGA ILUNGA
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1991, Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga studied painting at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Kinshasa. While the strict, almost 19th-century style of formal figuration that has been taught at the Académie since its colonial-era founding allowed the artist to develop sophisticated painterly skills, ultimately, he found its program conceptually stifling, and abandoned his studies there, in 2011. Though there was little in place supporting that decision, he quickly aligned himself with other artists to establish M’Pongo, a group studio where a diverse set of young artists shared ideas and exhibited together to generate their own vibrant scene, which tapped into the high-energy creativity of contemporary Kinshasa.
Kamuanga Ilunga explores the seismic shifts in the economic, political and social identity of the DRC that have taken place since colonialism. Increasingly globalised, there is a sense in the DRC that some of its people are rejecting its heritage, a conflict that fuels Kamuanga Ilunga’s work.
His large-scale figurative compositions possess a depth of historical understanding, with a striking and sophisticated interplay of the intensity of space juxtaposed with emptiness. The listless figures seem to mourn the loss of their traditional cultures, their bright fabrics hanging limply from their bodies, their hands clutching ritual objects whose functions seem less and less apparent. For his latest project, Kamuanga uses the history of the Kongo Kingdom to reveal the legacy of its leaders and examines the impact this has had on contemporary Congolese society. These new works feature objects such as porcelain used by early Portuguese traders as well as pottery, such as Toby jugs, which later entered the trade routes in the Kongo Kingdom for the trade of slaves. In this body of works, Eddy pays tribute to the slaves and ancestors who resisted this human trafficking by presenting a vision of the socio-political landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
October Gallery held Kamuanga Ilunga’s first solo exhibition in 2016, quickly followed by a second successful solo exhibition in 2018. In 2017, Kamuanga Ilunga’s work was included in the exhibition African-Print Fashion Now! at the Fowler Museum, UCLA, touring to Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, Tennessee, and Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina. His work has been exhibited internationally at institutions including Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Kunsthaus, Graz, Austria; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Birmingham, UK; Saatchi Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK. His work is in important private and public collections including: Private Collection Laurence Graff OBE; Zeitz Collection of Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa; the Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, USA; Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, USA; the Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa; and Scheryn Art Collection, Cape Town, South Africa.
In association with Gabriela Salgado