Osart Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Feni Chulumanco's Behind the walls, the first Italian solo show of the South African artist (b. 1994), with a new body of works that embrace his most iconic themes and values, that have already made him quite popular in his country. This young, self-taught artist tells a story of pride and isolation, in which he aims to escape his own “dis-comfort zone”, represented both by the glass case in which all his subjects are encapsulated, and the walls of the domestic settings where his scenes are set.
The house context assumes in fact a double connotation, where the traditional role of cozy shelter of love is opposed to its actual function – in the case of Chulumanco's personal experience – of safe house, a sort of panic room which prevents those dangers and threats spreading in the streets from breaking in. In this sense, Chulumanco chooses to describe the private sphere rather than shedding a light on the unfortunate events which are commonplace in South Africa, giving viewers a sense of universal feeling, and letting them see what's behind the walls.
In his paintings, references from his childhood and youth are overwhelming, with every single detail recalling an experience, or a character that had an important role on the artist's personal and artistic growth. The indoor settings are in fact inspired by memories of his late grandmother's house in Langa, where Chulumanco moved with his mother and siblings at a very young age. Carpets and plants are mixed with his subjects, caught while busy with house chores or cuddling - as in Umthetho Wekhaya, or depicted in daily activities (Night food/Supper).
All of Chulumanco's subjects are faceless. This feature is sometimes very ironically counterbalanced by the presence of a smiling self-portrait hanging on the wall of the rooms where the scenes are set. The lack of facial features are both a reference of the style of West African masks, but also a representation of the artist's lonesome, a lifelong companion embodied by the “glass womb” that rocks and protects like a motherly presence, but also nortures and empowers its creatures.