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Frank, even garish colors, dilapidated bodies, exuberant nature … Angolan artist Cristiano Mangovo presents his paintings for the first time in France, in Paris at the Afikaris gallery until December 7, at the exhibition “Humano ea natureza” ( “Humans and nature”).
“I constantly question the way humans declare and manifest their superiority over other living species, underlines the painter. This thought has been reflected in my work for quite some time now, as I seek to integrate and express the emotions that other living beings might feel. One might think that this requires imagination, when it is only a question of changing perspective by considering that all life has its own value, a value worthy of respect. “
Harmony raw, sometimes lost
Born in 1982 in the province of Cabinda, an Angolan enclave wedged between Congo-Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the second of six siblings, Cristiano Mangovo left his country when he was a child to come to settle in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC. A graduate of the school of fine arts in this city, he now lives and works in Portugal, in Lisbon.
Inspired by the American Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Briton Francis Bacon and the Angolan Antonio Tomas Ana aka “Etona”, the artist wants his works to encourage the preservation of nature and awaken everyone’s ecological awareness. “Most of my paintings point to humans who the Bible says have the right to rule over nature and dominate creation. For me, the way they materialize and interpret this right is perverted by their ego ”, he insists.
Cristiano Mangovo also wants to denounce the Chinese presence in Africa and regrets the way in which economic and political issues take precedence over legitimate environmental concerns. Through his work, he deplores the overexploitation of land and natural resources for the benefit of a short-lived financial profit in view of the lasting consequences on nature.
The canvases are thus alive, explosive, giving birth to new composite beings, hybrid assemblages of human, animal and plant elements. New forms from which emerge scattered bodies, fantastic creatures suggesting a raw – sometimes lost -, elementary and organic harmony between man and nature.
“A singular and unique universe”
Without forgetting these double-mouthed faces, present in the works on display. They are the symbols of an autocratic regime, when José Eduardo dos Santos ruled Angola for thirty-eight years, from 1979 to 2017. Closed to signify the hyper-surveillance of citizens, open to symbolize cries of resistance in the face of harshness authorities.
Florian Azzopardi, founder and director of the Afikaris gallery, was impressed when he saw for the first time two large formats of Cristiano Mangovo during an exhibition at the Parisian auction house Piasa, at the end of 2018. “He is a central figure in the contemporary Angolan scene and certainly the most influential painter in his country. He also knew how to create a place for himself in Africa, as his universe is singular and unique ”, specifies the gallery owner.
We can also detect in the work of the Angolan a certain affiliation with the American Peter Saul, the French Robert Coumbas and Gérard Garouste, even if the message of Cristiano Mangovo is very different. Be that as it may, collectors and institutions are increasingly attracted to the works of the plastic artist.
The artist invites the spectators of his paintings to adopt a restorative attitude, anchored in a new harmony: “Like a bird, I can enter anywhere: in the house of the poor as in the house of kings. I can listen to what’s going on there and get the message across. Above all, I try to convey a message of hope through everyday life. “
« Human and nature », by Cristiano Mangovo, at the Afikaris gallery until December 7 (38, rue Quincampoix, 75004 Paris. Tuesday to Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm. Sunday from 2 pm to 6 pm).
Virtual tour of the exhibition: www.artland.com/exhibitions/humano-e-a-natureza
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Contemporary African art: Cristiano Mangovo’s call for the preservation of nature