The interplay between one‘s own identity and the external observer was stated by Jean-Paul Sartre long before the era of social media: According to the French philosopher we become aware of our own existence in the very moment we feel the other’s gaze on us. In the era of Instagram, Sartre’s theory seems more relevant than ever. In my paintings I am touching upon this very interplay, upon the crucial question of identity, the fluid state between public perception and self – but in my very own way.
As a black female artist with German-Senegalese roots these issues – for me – are deeply connected with a life between cultures and the obstacles that go along with it: multi-culturalism, (structural) racism, prejudice, and stereotypes. In my figurative paintings I am expressing this conflictual search of identity through BIPOC women who are experiencing this process while looking down from the canvas, well aware of the observer – thus being actively called into existence. Through many-faceted layers, bold colours and complementing typography the observer can gain a glimpse into their inner world and conflicts. However, instead of lecturing these women are purely there ‘to be’. The female body becomes a visionary place, a metaphor for internal and external conflict, but also a utopia of diversity. An ancient but ever relevant struggle.
Our modern media usage, in particular on Instagram, serves as the gateway for many of my works. I purposely search for self-portraiture of BIPOC women who are using the platform for self-realisation while defying prevalent stereotypes. Tapping into the ephemeral and constantly changing medial elements of our digital age, I find repurpose, anchoring them into traditional painting. Sometimes combining pictures, I create my own perception of their individuality trying to bridge the worlds between a traditional art form and media habits of the 21st century.
In my more abstract series “Art Therapy” I am addressing the same inner conflict. The paintings are expressions of the constant struggle between the want-to-be and have-to-be, between standing out and getting lost in the masses – manifested through a constant interplay between transcending fore- and backgrounds. The loud and colourful elements are the direct results of an intuitive process, expressive gestures and emotions. But only an active examination and rational confrontation in retrospective decides which of these initial elements will stand and which will subsequently give way to the unicolor fields overruling them, pushing them back into inexistence.