The Space Between
50 Golborne, London presents The Space Between by Malian Cheick Diallo and Ivorian Jean Servais Somian, which is currently ongoing till April 30, 2017.
In The Space Between, space is quantifiable visually, for example, in the indentations that give way to full excavations carved out by Jean Servais Somian into the rock-hard wood of the grand coconut tree trunks he chooses as his main material. Likewise, in Cheick Diallo’s furniture, the grids that are created by the weaving of brightly coloured, nylon fishing threads onto recycled metal structures render the pieces light and airy. Both projects beautifully present a dialogue between the Full and the Empty.
When Cheick Diallo began his project (using nylon thread imported into Mali in large quantities for the fishing industry, applying local traditional techniques of weaving), it was initially out of necessity in a Malian economic context of near scarcity. Engaging local skills with locally sourced material has become a foundation of the global thinking on sustainability, making Diallo’s work readable beyond the local into the global.
Jean Servais Somian alludes directly to the coastal region of West Africa, where he works when using the natural resource of coconut palm trees trunks. As with Diallo’s work, paradoxically the voids Somian carves into the trunks (reclaiming a traditional skill so difficult it has virtually disappeared from the region) allow the natural material to further express its qualities; the density of the wood, its rich bark marked by growth and trauma, its immense length and curves produced by the tropical conditions. These give aesthetic interest to the works they also participate in, powerfully expressing the natural origin of the material. Here we are back to the paradigm of the full, a reference to an awe-inspiring African nature.
Somian transgresses this paradigm by employing brightly coloured lacquer in its indents, by the addition of contrasting shapes and materials – drawers, mirrors and buttons – playfully indicating the pieces’ function as cabinets or benches. However, in calling his vertical pieces Les Demoiselles, he alludes to the powerful sexual quality of the works, jokingly referring back to Picasso showing how art history also informs his practice.
Cheick Diallo says, “I am not in the slightest bit interested in design if it is merely redoing what already exists.” Indeed, his practice created a break with established clichés about making on the African continent. With the likes of Diallo and Somian, the probing of design borders are inherent to the practicing of new design on the African continent.
Cheick Diallo, born in Mali, is the founder of the Association of African Designers (ADA), which he has chaired since 2004. He discovered design during his studies in architecture in Rouen, France, and continued his training at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Creation Industrielle (ENSCI, Paris) graduating in 1994. He won a competition organised by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (1993); and received the 1st prize at SIDIM (International Exhibition of Interior Design Montreal) in 2006. Diallo’s work has featured at the Brooklyn Museum, United States; Museum Grand Hornu, Belgium; the National Centre for Art and Culture Georges Pompidou in Paris; and Manchester Museum of Art in Manchester. Also in international biennials, including Dak’Art Biennale, Senegal; Design Biennale in Liège, Belgium; Gwangju Biennale, Korea; and the Design Biennial in Saint-Étienne, France.
Jean Servais Somian was born 1971 in Ivory Coast. His works include design, sculpture and cabinetmaking. He trained first in carpentry in Abidjan and then in Design Agency in Lausanne, Switzerland. Somain has exhibited widely in Africa and Europe. His works were exhibited in the Musee Dapper and Musee du quai Branly in Paris; Biennale de Saint Etienne, France; and Biennale de Dakar, Senegal. In 2013, he was awarded the Archibat Prize at the first design fair in Abidjan. In 2015, he featured in the African Design Days exhibition in Casablanca, Morocco, and in the London Design Festival, 50 Golborne Gallery. In 2016 he was a participating artist at the Dakar-Martigny in Switzerland and at the Art Paris Art Fair.
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