A Journey through Six Stages of Emotion with Madagascan Artist Joël Andrianomearisoa

It’s a busy month for Joël Andrianomearisoa: the Madagascan artist is currently exhibiting on three continents. He’s the subject of Sabrina Amrani’s presentation at Art15 in London this week, and his work is also on view in group shows in Washington, D.C. and São Paulo.

The names of the American venues in question—the African Art Museum at the Smithsonian and the Museu Afro Brasil—tell you something about Andrianomearisoa and the themes that run through his oeuvre. Violence, isolation, domination, submission, human cruelty, and longing—they’re themes that are all too familiar for generations of Africans, both past and present. And while Andrianomearisoa himself is now based in Paris, it’s no surprise that institutions in the U.S. and Brazil, countries with particularly painful histories of slavery, would engage with his evocative work.

The artist employs a wide variety of materials to explore the darker sides of humanity—which can be seen at Art15 this week. De Profundis (all works 2015), a reference to Oscar Wilde’s eponymous prison letter of 1897 and the titular work of Sabrina Amrani’s exhibition in Madrid earlier this year, is made from pieces of varnished silk paper on canvas. Works from Andrianomearisoa’s “Last Illusions” series and standalone works like Two loves are combinations of textiles, wood, and metal. And then there’s Tears, a collection of elegant glass water bottles that’s deceptively simple, and surprisingly moving. 

Understood within its original context, Tears is even more intriguing. At the gallery’s larger Andrianomearisoa exhibit  during February and March, the work was included in “Sorrows and Tears,” the second of six phases in the artist’s central installation, La première aube de l'adolescence avec son délicat épanouissement, sa claire et pure lumière, sa joie pleine d'innocence et d'attente (The first dawn of adolescence with its delicate bloom, its clear and pure light, its joy full of innocence and expectation.)

These six steps—Light, Sorrows and Tears, Memories of an Affection, Last Illusions, Complex Horizons of Love, Labyrinth of Passion—resemble the classic stages of grief. And whether you take them together or view pieces individually, as many viewers will do at Art15, the range and depth of emotion in Andrianomearisoa’s works is nearly palpable.

—Bridget Gleeson


Joël Andrianomearisoa’s solo show with Visit Sabrina Amrani at Art15, London, Booth EM8, May 21 – 23, 2015.

Follow Sabrina Amrani on Artsy.

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