Jason Haam is pleased to present Cheikh Ndiaye: Archives of the Sun, Cheikh Ndiaye’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Featuring new and recent works by the artist, the exhibition provides an insight into the everyday scenes of post-independent West Africa.
Born in Dakar, Senegal, 10 years after its independence from France, Cheikh Ndiaye experienced the aftermath of socio-political unrest and rapid modernisation first-hand. The structural adjustments imposed on Senegal by the International Monetary Fund from the late 1980s led to an expansion of African cities and to a radical growth of informal economies, which constitute one of the main motives of Ndiaye's paintings. Portraying day-to-day scenes, old movie theatres built during the post-independence era, and street vendors’ kiosks in West African metropolises, the artist provides a visual interpretation of the connection between formal and informal architecture and of the occupation of space and people's daily habits.
The title of the exhibition refers to a Senegalese daily ”Le Soleil” (The Sun). Ndiaye— seeing architecture as an archive of social practices—often exploits archival materials depicting social movements in Senegal in his works. At first glance, the modernist movie theatres, which appear in many of his paintings, might seem derelict; yet, a closer examination reveals that they are indeed full of life. While these movie theatres no longer serve the purpose of film projections, they continue to fulfil a vital role within African urban society. Ndiaye's paintings evoke two distinct temporalities: the post-independence enthusiasm of the 1960s and 1970s during which those movie theatres were built and their present transformation. Such temporal shifts serve as a subtle way to question the modern history of West Africa.
The artist's methodology is grounded in a precise observation and reflection on the relationship between architecture, figures, and urban space; he bears witness to people's capacity to inhabit public space. In his new body of work, the artist emphasises the importance of figures within the composition of the painting; this transition from architecture to figures is gradual but evident. In some artworks, buildings start to function as a backdrop rather than as the main subject—the paintings provide an immersive, almost cinematographic experience of architecture. The sky, painted in a single shade of blue characteristic of Ndiaye’s older works, is barely apparent; instead, the canvas captures an intimate view of the subtleties of emotion, embodying a narrative of the lives of people within. In addition to serving as a document of current affairs and of scenes which Ndiaye has personally seen and experienced in his life, his approach pays particular attention to the materiality of the painting: elaborate surfaces of derelict walls or dust-covered folds of tarp are, for him, a way to question the nature and the history of the medium of painting itself. Minute details, expressive use of bright and vibrant colours, and the quality of texture enhance the animated and lively scenes of Ndiaye's paintings.