Fantastical Pascale Marthine Tayou

I was double-booked that evening but was curious to find out more about artist Pascale Marthine Tayou, currently showing at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery: a Cameroonian (born in 1966-7 in Yaounde), who migrated to Sweden and then to France, before settling in Belgium in 2003 (he lives and works in Ghent). Well known on the art circuit, he is represented by Galleria Continua and was exhibited at Musée d’art moderne and Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and at Mac Lyon in 2011 amongst other institutions, as well as shown at Documenta and the Venice Biennale.

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I plunged enthusiastically into the Serpentine exhibition, having left most of the guests at the drinks reception held next door at Magazine, a Zaha-Hadid designed restaurant. It could well have been a number of different artists exhibiting, not only because of the variety of mediums but also the diversity of works on display. I saw African masks, various pieces combining found and discarded objects, and other works reminiscent of Subodh Gupta. My other senses were awakened too by the sound of birds and the smell of hay accompanying the exhibition. I later discovered that the smell of dry hay came from Africonda, a fantastical snake made of wash cloth, organic matter, dry hay and wood. The artist does not consider any hierarchy of materials and uses plastic bags and petrol pipes along with conventional materials.

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The title of the exhibition ‘Boomerang’ is based on a work exhibited left from the entrance; three boomerangs of different colours: one for Christianity, one for Islam, and one for Judaism. In my view, the title of the exhibition is also related to the artist’s belief that our actions have consequences for humanity – similar to the boomerang effect. Pascale Marthine Tayou insists it is the social responsibility of the artist to voice political, economic, and ecological concerns; the latter was most evident in the Serpentine show. There is a heavy use of recycled materials and the walls of the exhibition are punctuated with statistics of the most polluted places.

Pascale Marthine Tayou’s fantastical beasts and mysterious human forms at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery are well worth a visit, until 17 May 2015.

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