Jack Bell’s latest offering features paintings by Beninese painter Cyprien Tokoudagba, alongside two triptychs from a Vodou fetish market (also from Benin), and masks from people living in Central Western Mali.
Taking ‘vodou’ as its theme, this perplexing show hints at all sorts of things without giving much away – what stories, beliefs and desires went through the minds of the creators of these heads without bodies, and bodies without heads? How can we read the frankly-painted panels declaring ‘syphilis’ and other sexually transmitted afflictions – as warnings or cures, as educational or spiritual devices? What connections and conversations might there be between the pieces?
Given the anonymity of these works in their white-cube surroundings, we have only the brief gallery blurb and our own imaginations to rely on – perhaps we shall never know. For further clues on some of the paintings, however, you can track down some interesting biographical nuggets on the artist Tokoudagba (b. 1939), who works as a restorer at the Museum of Abomey. He began his international career as an artist at the famed Magiciens de la Terre exhibition in Paris in 1989, and has since had a variety of solo and group shows – more info on him can be found here.
The show continues until 12th March
Jack Bell Gallery
276 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London