written by Trevor To
Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga's second solo exhibition with October Gallery opened this month. Titled 'Fragile Responsibility', the theme of the exhibition is the transition between "tradition and modern, colonial and indigenous" cultures in the life of Congolese society.
His use of vibrant colours on the subjects in the foreground, together with subtle symbols in the underlying patterns on the skin of the characters in the paintings and the monolithic background, create a visual tension for the viewers to explore the canvas.
The surrealist nature of the paintings is also depicted through the gesture of the characters in the paintings. With their non-photogenic eyes and lack of direct eye contact with the viewers, they look more like ancient stone carving than contemporary people. They resemble more to static statues frozen in time or an Congolese version of terra-cotta army turning up in today's street scenes by mistake of the time tunnel.
We have interviewed the artist during his visit in London for the exhibition, to share his creative insight with our followers:
Q1: Your paintings often feature human figures in an abstract background. What is the thinking behind this?
EKI: I work much on human figures as they are the foundation of humanity. I draw upon my personal experiences and I try to question reality through these figures. The abstract background represents a grey, hazy past – a history that we are not able to grasp nor understand due to the fact it was written in an insincere way.
EKI: I approach these signs, these ideographs, as a pre-colonial savoir-faire, which has existed for centuries. Today, these symbols do not exist as the society they are from was eradicated by colonialism. They were once used in politics, justice, religion, however, today they have been erased from the memory of the Congo.
EKI: I have a strong relationship with painting. For me there is a sort of life in paintings; when I see them in museums I see a life after beyond the artist’s signature. Paintings transform over time. In twenty years, I will look at my works and they will probably be different. I am also interested in other media, for example during my researches I took pictures and made films that I have never exhibited. This summer I am going to present in Austria a series of photographs of the Mangbetu people.