Immerse yourself in the fantasy world of Soly Cissé

Rituels 2, collage, 2015 © Solly Cissé

Rituels 2, collage, 2015 © Solly Cissé

From June 14th to 30th 2016, The Cloître des Billettes, in Paris, had welcomed the exhibition “Spirits in the Wind”, dedicated to the Senegalese Soly Cissé. At 47, he is one of the foremost contemporary African artists.

His style is unmistakable. And so is the universe that he has created. Haunted by fanciful creatures, allegories of human monstrousness, the protean and multidisciplinary work of Soly Cissé (paints, collages, videos, installations, sculptures…) establishes a new and unprecedented mythology.
Some might see it as a nod to animistic rites, but it is obviously not just that. Because Soly Cissé likes to explore his wandering imagination, to give free rein to his urges as well as to his unconscious mind.
That is why the visual artist deliberately ignores the academic rules to break all the codes, freeing himself from stylistic and material borders within which African artists are so often limited : “A good artist is international in essence”, he says. “Talent has no borders. It’s universal (…) Promoting African contemporary art means using the filter of a few people, a few curators, who sometimes make sure that the African artist remains naïve and meets western expectations. Some of my colleagues are often asked to stay in (…) a traditional and exotic African cliché.”
Unique but strangely familiar, on the verge of figurative style, the art of Soly Cissé evoke the pictorial boldness of a Picasso, the raw and almost childish spontaneity of Basquiat. Sometimes even, in a collage, under the silhouette of a West African Lobi statue, there is a glimpse of Dubuffet.
Those references, more or less obvious, are scattered here or there in his work, and the artist claims them all: “It is not a question of copying, but of well digesting the influences. An artist can draw inspiration from others for their own creativity, but this must be done intelligently. The more we are influenced, the better it is. We can even “improve” the original works that inspire us, emphasizing them, adding something to them. That’s the difference between copying and reinterpreting. I have never had conflict, even with my own imitators.”


Soly Cissé will be one of the guests of the 11th edition of a Tambacounda-Geneva-Dakar (TGD) artistic and cultural exchange project , that will take place from September 12th to October 16th at the Villa Dutoit, in Geneva (Switzerland)

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