Africa: Morag Colquhoun

Today Morag gave us an introduction on our next project with the Mothers of Africa charity. I touched on African art within a ‘culture’ project during my foundation year so was excited to go in to more depth.

Morag made a point that I had never really thought about before: when studying at getting inspiration from somewhere like Africa, you have to be aware that (unless you have the opportunity to visit Africa) you will not be using primary sources, only secondary. For example photographs, books etc

She spoke about Pablo Picasso and the inspiration he takes from African art and by looking at it on the screen in front of us, it was actually surprisingly obvious. Previously, whenever I have heard of one artist taking inspiration from another, I’ve never really been able to see it, but in this case it was clear in features such as elongated faces and a squared, block nose.

In ‘Head of a Woman’ by Pablo Picasso the eyes and nose are clearly inspired by African art, particularly their tribal masks.

Kifwebe Mask, Luba Culture, from Democratic Republic of Congo by African School.

Amadeo Modigliani is another artist who Morag mentioned taking inspiration from African art, and I love the elongated faces of these women. I think it makes them look extremely elegant and graceful and would quite like to take this aspect of his work and use it in my own. The figure is something that I enjoy drawing and would like to develop further and create more stylised drawings this year, whether it be a part of a university project or as a personal one.

Amadeo Modigliani died penniless and destitute—managing only one solo exhibition in his life and giving his work away in exchange for meals in restaurants. Since his death, his reputation has soared. Nine novels, a play, a documentary, and three feature films have been devoted to his life.Beautiful long faces  by ~ Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884-1920) Italian painter / sculptor who worked mainly in France.  ~Repinned via Eric Vose

I am also interested in the symbolism which is used a lot in African Textiles, commonly using resist techniques such as Batik.
The Asante people for example use a tribal language of motifs in their textiles. They are a variety of both abstract and literal motifs which are taken from everyday objects. I am interested in symbolism, not only in African textiles but also other cultures and religions. When I visited the Pitt Rivers in November last year I was focussing on tribal art and the symbolism within it and went on to produce prints of these symbols.

After the lecture with Morag, we then went over to the library to do our own research into the topic and get some ideas for what we want to do for the Mothers of Africa quilt. I focused mainly on tribal masks and took great interest in the reasons for these masks being made/worn. In volume 42 of the ‘African Arts’ journal I read an article about en exhibition preview at the Royal Museum for central Africa in Belgium. This exhibition features contemporary artists such as Romuald Hazoume (who Morag had spoken about earlier). This particular artist creates “expressive faces made from salvaged materials, especially plastic jerry cans”. I take an interest in recycled art but have never really had the opportunity to pursue it, but this may be something that can happen at some point over the next three years. I am fascinated by how something that is seen as junk/rubbish can be transformed into works of art.


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