By Nii B. Andrews.

In confronting the big issues of our time, Omar Ba has proven himself a serious and uncompromising protagonist.

His artistic output engages with topical issues that include: immigration, our changing relationship and attitude towards nature and the highly skewed inequality of wealth, power, opportunity and resources globally.

Malick Ndiaye, artistic director of the Dakar Biennale recently exclaimed, “Ba Omar? But he reinvents painting…… powerful and innovative work.” 

****Les vestiges d’une monnaie : cfa-éco (Dangerous Games 1), Acrylic, pencil, oil, Indian ink and bic pen on canvas, 78 7/10 × 59 1/10 in, 200 × 150 cm, 2022. Credit Templon Gallery, Paris****

Ba regularly utilizes and combines a range of elements from African and other cultures to produce works with corrugated cardboard and canvas, paintbrushes, and his hands. 

He prepares his paintings with a black ground, upon which he layers a vivid palette dominated by primary colours. 

“His work is much more complex than most things you see: his treatment of subject matter, his use of bestiary, and his use of color are strikingly strong and beautiful,” says Mathieu Templon, owner of a gallery that reps Ba, “He is one of the most aesthetic and political African artists today.”

*****Man and Lion Walking in the Darkness, 2012. Credit: Artcurial*****

Ba in his work explores, espouses and exploits an unabashed notion of duality, whether between North and South, history and contemporaneity or the personal and the political.

Soldiers, political leaders, labourers, skeletons have all emerged against a black painted backdrop to register his apprehension at societal mores and developments; more recently his attention has been focused on the African diaspora and its grandeur.

His paintings are an astute fusion of figurative and decorative styles with depictions of part-real, part-imaginary worlds populated with human and animal beings, “organic patterns often inspired by traditional Senegalese ornaments, geographic and political symbols such as maps and flags – a dizzying array of earthly life.”

He utilizes an array of materials: crayon, China ink, oil, gouache; and several of them may be found in a single work.

*****ONU – House of Exile, Oil, pencil, acrylic, Chinese ink, gouache on cardboard boxes,124 2/5 × 219 3/10 × 15 7/10 in, 316 × 557 × 40 cm, 2021. Credit Wilde*****

Furthermore, he is not afraid of jettisoning the codes of traditional painting and eschewing the conventional format imposed by a frame.

At certain times, he has chosen to paint directly on rolls of bare canvas or on large cardboard boxes placed on the floor. 

Ba was trained at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Dakar and the École des Beaux-Arts de Genève. 

Recent group exhibitions include Centre Pompidou, Paris; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels and Royal Academy of Arts, London. His works have been included in several public collections.

*****Ombres dans le noir #3, Oil, gouache, pencil on corrugated cardboard,15 7/10 × 14 1/5 in, 40 × 36 cm 2011*****

He is a top flight CAA practitioner with a unique, dense and unsettling visual language that communicates the complexity and cruelty of the themes he tackles: political violence, exploitation of nature and the phenomena of domination and exclusion.

Yes, his paintings are of a deeply political nature, and he often repeats his themes.

This repetition far from making him sound like broken vinyl or a fount of negativity – (which is the utterly naive and lazy interpretation!), instead allows him the space to reflect on his subject matter and find solutions. 

His works challenge the largely dismal, corrosive, opaque, brain draining and soul saping power structures in Africa’s corrupt political systems.  

He writes, “I’m trying to find solutions. That’s why when I work, I repeat and come back and reflect at the same time.”

4 thoughts on “OMAR BA: NO HOLDS BARRED.”

  1. Woow! He is certainly “not afraid of jettisoning the codes of traditional painting”.
    This is a different experience.

  2. I so love and appreciate the way you write and your expressiveness- thanks for sharing!

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