WILLIAM ADJÉTÉ WILSON AND THE DEMONS OF HISTORY.
By Nii B. Andrews.
William Adjété Wilson studied philosophy and anthropology at university before he became a practising self taught artist.
His artistic output displays a profound understanding of the world beyond the docile and unquestioning receipt of clichés and myths.
Simon Njami – the renowned curator, has suggested that Wilson strives to utilize “an instinctive gesture which is deceptive…… a language of the absurd which cannot leave us, voyeurs that we are, cold and unaffected.”
Wilson utilizes individual biographies, family and collective histories from Africa, Europe and the Americas to critique and present a nuanced and complicated narrative of past and continuing encounters between Europe and Africa going back at least five centuries.
Thus he produces a narrative that is of today, here and now, of which the artist is one of the principal protagonists.
His visual compositions are enduring, striking and colorful.
He utilizes appliqué techniques to produce updated versions of Asafo, Voudoun, Haitian and Brazilian textiles.
The result is a spiritual and intellectual conversation involving all of us- an inclusive dialog of humankind.
In the piece below, he references an Asafo flag while tackling the results of the colonial and possibly post colonial experience.
A figure burdened with the flags of Europe is led forward on a leash through a graveyard towards a furnace.
As Asafo flags served as a rallying symbol for community cohesion, will Wilson’s modern version fulfill its role in today’s vale of tears even as we tryst with USD50BN century bonds touted to take us beyond aid?
He also achieved artistic success in numerous other media.
These include pastels, paintings, sculpture, and assemblages, drawings and collages, photographs and videos.
Furthermore, in the 80s and 90s, he collaborated effectively with numerous other artists and created costumes and sets for musical-videos. Other projects included artists’ books as well as design and wall paintings.
He has designed scarves for Louis Vuitton; worked for Rodier, and for Arches shoes…and designed posters for cultural events.
Wilson has also been an illustrator for publishers such as Gallimard, Folio, Flammarion, and for magazines, such as New Yorker, Zurich’s Du, Télérama and Libération.
His work has been exhibited throughout Africa, Europe, the U.S. and Brazil.
4 thoughts on “PORTFOLIO – 40.”
Great as always. The piece on the variations on the Asafo flags is brilliant. We need education on all fronts. Alas, I’m not sure this will feature even in what we call Visual Arts. Hmmm. Thanks 🙏
Wow, the paintings have blown me away.
Good morning NB and many thanks for sharing this intriguing dimension of art. I must admit, with very little embarrassment, that this is my first encounter with ‘WAW’ & I am indeed wowed!! After looking at the pictures and reading the script I quickly consulted my ‘repository for knowledge’, good old Google, to find out more about this self styled artist! I am totally blown away by, firstly, his background (social and academic) and most importantly by his work. He fully confirms my belief and conviction that art is totally without boundaries and ‘means all things to all men’! Whether it be considered classic, modern, naive or even primitive, it contains depth and beauty and furthermore conveys a
message which is subject to personal interpretation by the beholder.
I am absolutely fascinated by the medium each artist uses to express himself/ herself and the available resources they resort to in order to lend expression to the message / story. In this particular case I can fully identify with the ethnic and tribal symbols used, which make the paintings uniquely African but with European innuendoes, if that makes sense?!
The first two paintings seem steeped in mythology, of a Grecian type, I might add! The half human half animal takes me back to the days of stories of Grecian gods and the goings on in that era when at whim humans were transformed into part animal for whatever transgressions they may have committed!! However, these half human entities look content, even at peace and in no wise oppressed. In fact they seem to be happily getting on with whatever it is they are doing whilst a Hindu looking temple dancer gets on with a jig against a backdrop of Islamic looking stars and a partial mosque! Is it my imagination or is there a coded message of spirituality?!
The second painting definitely has elements of Grecian mythology. The horse with its concealed ‘internal city’ screams ‘Helen of Troy’! The ‘primitive’, and here the word is used advisedly, depiction of animals and persons representational of various social strata, is vibrant and full of activity and motion. Is it the lost or forbidden city?! Food for thought in the belly of a horse😊 Go figure!
Thank you, PMA for your extremely well crafted and articulated contribution.
Have great day too.