The latest exhibition by Senegalese painter and sculptor Soly Cissé presents a selection of his recent work unified by the representation of bodily forms and aligned to questions about what is it that makes us human, after all.
Men and Lives sees this contemporary master interrogating some of the darker reaches of the psyche, though, as ever with Cissé's work, imbued with humour and irony. His paintings sometimes show groupings of two or three figures who seem to be refraining from conversation or interaction, as though consumed by their own thoughts or search for some hoped-for "inner identity" not accessible to others. At other times he reveals a seeming procession of human forms, some overlapping and some set apart; again, each element stands apart even as they enter each other's space. In some paintings, the canvas is divided into two registers or segment, at once seeming to be in conflict but nonetheless harmonised aesthetically, as if the artist is seeking for an impossible unity between fraught human relations.
Cissé's incomparable understanding of the relation of line to the fulfilment of form (as well as a subtle use of detail in the form of pattern and crosshatch) can be seen in the works on Men and Lives. At over four metres wide, the astonishing canvas Untitled (Triptych) of 2018 shows the artist developing this subtle message of the relationship between the human and the lived at a magisterial level and forms a central axis for the exhibition as a whole.
Complemented by figurative sculpture, Soly Cissé's latest exhibition at Sulger-Buel Gallery allows viewers to experience deeply philosophical, engaging yet accessible work by an outstanding contemporary painter of international repute.