Tears that Taste of the Sea, an exhibition of new works by Rachid Koraïchi, will open at October Gallery in April, 2021. The exhibition presents a select sampling of Koraïchi’s works in different media created during this past year of global crisis, and includes seven blue and white ceramic vases from the Lachrymatoires Bleues series, three sets of seven paintings from the Handkerchiefs of Hope series, three large steel sculptures representing vigilant guardian figures and one large etching, Le Jardin d’Afrique. In formal terms, the diverse works are linked together by the figures, glyphs and symbols of Koraïchi’s signature style of hand-drawn characters. Thematically speaking, they are related by their emphasis on the innumerable tears shed mourning the loss of loved ones, for reasons of displacement, migration and disaster, or the harrowing effects of the present pandemic. This exhibition marks the first time these four elements of The Garden of Africa, Koraïchi's significant new project to create a cemetery in Southern Tunisia for the many migrants drowned while crossing the Mediterranean in search of a better life, are displayed together.
In 2018, Rafael Trelles exhibited a set of exquisitely hand-drawn works, depicting mysterious, magico-mythical realms, as part of October Gallery’s Portal show. His latest solo exhibition, entitled Axis Mundi, presents a newly completed series of mixed media paintings that develop similar themes in novel and unexpected ways. The exhibition’s title refers to that central ‘world tree’ around which the universe supposedly revolves. This notion, common to many ancient cultures in Africa, the Americas and Europe, situates a giant tree at the centre of some ageless, sacred wood. One example, from the Norse sagas, tells of the great ash tree, Yggdrasil, which from its topmost branches to its deepest roots connects nine different realms, passing from the heavens to earth before plunging down into the underworld below. Trelles’ haunting paintings present themes linking the enchanted forests of his native Puerto Rico with these widespread beliefs that see forests as sites of refuge and transformation in a natural world increasingly challenged by crises of species extinction and climate change.
Benji Reid: LAUGH AT GRAVITY
Laugh at Gravity is Benji Reid’s first solo exhibition at October Gallery. This highly anticipated exhibition follows the artist’s showcase at the 2019 edition of AKAA (Also Known As Africa), Paris and the 2020 edition of ICTAF (Investec Cape Town Art Fair) where the artist’s work enthralled audiences.
Benji Reid considers himself a Choreo-Photolist; a term he coined to encapsulate his unique practice where choreography, photography and theatricality meet in the image. Reid’s breathtaking photographs, composed primarily of self-portraits in incredible, anti-gravitational poses using a medley of props, draw the audience into a different dimension. In the hyper-realities he presents the subject is illuminated by acts of the artist’s imagination. Whether exploring life as an outsider, issues surrounding mental health or the complexities of fatherhood, Reid invites the audience into the discussion. Each perfectly poised portrait, set against vividly suggestive backdrops and adorned with fantastical objects, still suggests the recognisable world we all inhabit. Yet familiar objects like a paddle, a sparkler or a stool somehow transform to transport the viewer into an alternative reality, which while offering protection suggests undreamt of possibilities for real liberation.
The photographer Robert Golden describes in detail how Reid ‘’turns the trashcan into a rocket, he will use motors contrived to fly higher and faster than the crowd. His anti-gravitational mysteries, which fail to reflect the ‘real’ world as it seems to be, does what fine art can do in troubled times. He makes us smile – a victory in itself, but more, he provides a greater reality, one worthy of his talent.’’
Selected artists included are Tian Wei, Romuald Hazoumè, Golnaz Fathi and Govinda Sah ‘Azad’ amongst others.
Alexis Peskine’s signature works are large-scale mixed media ‘portraits’ of archetypes from the African diaspora, which are rendered by hammering nails of different gauge, with pin-point accuracy, into wood stained with natural materials such as coffee, mud and hibiscus extract. By applying gold leaf to the nails, he creates breath-taking composite images. Peskine depicts figures that portray strength and perseverance, charged with an energy reminiscent of the spiritually laden minkisi - ‘power figures’ - of the Congo Basin. His particular choice of the medium of nails resonates with sombre tones of the Black Experience, spanning the scale of qualities running from pain to transcendence.
Fire Figures recapitulates and expands upon the conceptual framework deployed in the previous Power Figures series. These striking new works explore the ongoing frustrations experienced by all those of the African Diaspora who continue to encounter endemic systems of racism and violence. All through his life, Peskine has ‘always felt the fire of injustice’ burning close by, a fire which fuels his work and spurs him on. However, he notes, the element of fire also represents an opportunity for cleansing and transformative change. Peskine's depicted subjects seem to see this change, right in front of them, palpably present, yet still unrealised.