Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté: “Symphonie En Couleur” at Blain|Southern, London – in pictures

Blain|Southern celebrates the first UK solo exhibition of Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté featuring his majestic textile installations. 

“Symphonie En Coleur”, opened on 2 September 2016, presents the work of one of the most well-known West African artists working today, Abdoulaye Konaté. The exhibition merges social and political considerations with the artist’s explorations into colour composition, and features a never before seen body of work inspired by the chroma of rocks and minerals.

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Abdoulaye Konaté, ‘Poupée Africaine’, 2016. Photo: Todd White. Image courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern.

Abdoulaye Konaté (b. 1953, Diré, Mali) is a textile artist whose installations explore socio-political and environmental issues, as well as examinations into aesthetic concerns such as colour and language. Using woven and dyed fabrics native to his home country, Mali, Konaté creates large scale, abstract textile panels to communicate messages about globalisation, war and environmental transformation.

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Abdoulaye Konaté, ‘Papillon (violet, jaune et ocre)’, 2016. Photo: Todd White. Image courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern.

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Abdoulaye Konaté, ‘Composition: Vert avec Bande Rouge et Noire’, 2016. Photo: Todd White. Image courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern.

As universal as the socio-political issues Konaté explores are, his work has very strong roots in his home country Mali, specifically its musical and textile traditions. Konate’s work in this exhibition is inspired by the capes worn by Senufo musicians. The works in this exhibition mimic the movement of the capes by using layers of coloured ribbons. As author and art critic Joëlle Busca states in the press release for “Symphonie En Couleur” (PDF download) at Blain|Southern in London,

Textile is always the thread: raw or subtly refined, from minimal to intricate, this ancestral and versatile material unshackles the work from the wall thanks to its texture, physicality and colour.

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Abdoulaye Konaté, ‘Composition: Vert Émeraude et Rouge’, 2016. Photo: Todd White. Image courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern.

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Abdoulaye Konaté, ‘Composition Bleue (2 points rouges)’, 2016. Photo: Todd White. Image courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern.

Konaté’s layers of colour, as illustrated in the work Composition Vert Émeraude et rouge, reflect the varied hues found in Mali’s geology. Coupled with the texture of the layered textile, Konaté’s installation recalls precious stones found locally, namely amethyst, garnet and quartz. When regarded as a whole, Konaté’s symphony is the visual iteration of the sights and sounds of his homeland projected outward and connecting to universal aesthetic and social sensibilities.

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Abdoulaye Konaté, ‘Composition: Noir Rouge Bleu et Blanc’, 2016. Photo: Todd White. Image courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern.

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Abdoulaye Konaté, ‘Composition: Jaune, Bleu (pointe)’, 2016. Photo: Todd White. Image courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern.

The ideas that ground Konaté’s work are present in his day-to-day life as a working artist in Bamako, Mali. In 2004 Konaté founded Le Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers Multimédia Balla Fasséké Kouyaté as a way of offering opportunities to young Malian artists to develop themselves professionally in their country rather than leaving and going abroad to study and work. The school has three main principles: academic, digital skills and instilling knowledge of and pride in Malian heritage. In a recent article on The Guardian Konaté explained:

Solutions will not be found in occupying territories or arms sales or terrorism. People have to listen to each other, they have to discuss, and each side has to yield a little so that people can live in peace together.

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Abdoulaye Konaté, ‘Composition: Vert et Rouge (personnage)’, 2016. Photo: Todd White. Image courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern.

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Abdoulaye Konaté, ‘Composition: Orange Avec Bande Verticale’, 2016. Photo: Todd White. Image courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern.

Konaté has been the recipient of many awards, namely the Léopold Sédar Senghor Prize at the Dak’Art Biennale in Dakar in 1996, the Officier de l’Ordre National du Mali in 2009, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France (2002). His work has shown in various exhibitions in Europe, the United States and Asia, including most recently “Divine Comedy, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory revisited by Contemporary African Artists” at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2014), SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia, USA (2014-2015), and National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, USA (2015). His exhibition at Blain|Southern runs until 24 September 2016.

Negarra A. Kudumu

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Related topics: Malian artists, textiles, political, environment, events in London

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