“The uncertain and imprecise way of constructing a drawing is sometimes a model of how to construct meaning...”

- William Kentridge

In parallel to Paris Drawing Week, Afikaris presents a selection of works on paper by artists Bruce Clarke, Saïdou Dicko, Salifou Lindou, Onyis Martin and Hyacinthe Ouattara





 While works on paper are traditionally associated with preparatory drawings and graphic studies, contemporary works on paper emancipate from this unique function.

If the words of William Kentridge, regularly quoted, “I tried being an actor, I failed. I tried being a painter. I failed (…) So I was reduced to being an artist working in charcoal drawings” testify of drawing as a poor alternative to painting, there is a body of institutions, collectors and galleries aiming to valorize the wide range of options offered by technics on paper. 

Drawing as an end in itself, as an artwork: that is the scream for the emancipation of a discipline as rich as complex, multiplying the mediums and supports. From the black frescos by Abdelkader Benchamma to mesmerizing pastels by Berthe Morisot, drawing does not have any limit in the mutation of its techniques. 

With big names of African contemporary art as Frédéric Bruly Brouabré, Marcel Miracle, William Kentridge, Ataa Oko or Ernesto Shikani, drawing is a medium of choice, practice and economic, which gathers all the material and aesthetic possibilities of works on paper. 

The five artists on view embody a various and relevant range of the possibilities offered by the paper and its different mediums. Sometimes dreamy, political, tortured or joyful, their works represent as many forms of expression and dialogues. 

Salifou Lindou, Famille en exil, 2019

Salifou Lindou, Famille en exil, 2019, 100x190 cm, 

Pastel on paper

If for Gideon Appah, drawing takes generally the shape of sketches, as the first step of his work, Salifou Lindou puts it at the heart of his work. The daily life scenes showcasing various characters take life through the pastels’ shades. Flesh and muscles, colored with ochre, black and pink tones, swell under the roundness of the line and prove the efficiency of pastel to materialize textures on paper. 

He explains: “With pastel, my hand becomes the only tool that creates my drawings and transcribes Cameroonian daily life scenes. With my finger, I smudge the lines, unify the plains and shade the colors. The pastel is worked like that, directly with the fingers on the paper, as would do a sculptor with clay. The hand, in the extension of my spirit, is the gatekeeper of my intuition and transcripts in a very pure and spontaneous way what I imagine.”

Bruce Clarke, Marché aux bestiaux, 2018

Bruce Clarke, Marché aux bestiaux, 2018, 60x60 cm

Acrylic and collage on paper

This taste for the staging is shared by South African artist Bruce Clarke, whose watercolors, spangled with collages in cardboard and newspapers, reveal fragments of souvenirs and life stories. Committed and protester, the artist uses watercolor’s spontaneity due to the quantity of water and the instability of drying, to express movement, which systematically appears in the gesture and expression of his characters. Throughout his works, international political and social issues are pointed out. Bruce Clarke aims at denouncing the fight for power in South Africa, widely impacted by decades of Apartheid. If Anglo-Saxon newspapers talked a lot about the crimes that occurred at that time, the French press remained discrete. “The ignorance of the French press was striking, and, in this context, it was really interesting for me to underline it in my paintings. I wanted to ask the question of the lack of press coverage in France regarding the South African conflict and to expose the complicity of journalists with the French and South African governments.”

Bruce Clarke’s work, in between painting and work on paper, proves the extreme subtlety of the limit between works on canvas and drawing if there is one. 

Famous Cameroonian drawer Barthélémy Togo’s favorite expression tool remains watercolor. “No medium is out-of-date. It depends on what the artist does and what he represents. Drawing is an artistic practice that is intimate and sincere, through which it is impossible to lie or cheat. It is also the first word of a child.” Franck Lundangi also meets this idea and his dreamy and charming universe enjoys watercolor’s softness and acidity. 

Watercolor, pure, on sketches, to enhance a drawing or mixed with other mediums, is a technic historically associated with the landscapists who sketched, on the go, the landscapes of their travels. At the heart of studies about color led by English artists of the second half of the 18th century, watercolor offers a certain transparency and luminosity allowing to work on colors while preserving their clarity. 

Saïdou Dicko, La naissance, 2017

Saïdou Dicko, La naissance, 2017, 30x40 cm

Work on paper

Saidou Dicko represents imaginary grasslands where herds of goats graze, probably led by a Peuhl breeder coming from Burkina Faso, where the artist was born. Watercolor’s grey and pink shades, melt the sketches of the herds, in movement on black and red patchworks: “Peulh carpets.”

Onyis Martin, Mouvement 1, 75x55 cm

Onyis Martin, Mouvement 1, 2018, 75x55 cm

Ink on paper

The contrasts of intensity are also emblematic of Kenyan artist Onyis Martin’s inks. Instable medium, the ink creates shadows areas and underlines some parts of the characters’ bodies, making sometimes their head, hands or legs look bigger. Witnesses of the brush’s path, these areas alternately emphasize the bodies and propose a targeted lecture. The representation of fights, showcasing characters whose posture reminds those of Greek athletes, seems to reveal corporal extremities, maybe synonym of weaknesses or strengths. 

A soluble use of ink contrasted by the techniques of the draftsmen Léonard Combier and Houston Maludi - whose monumental inks on primed paper - leaves no room for chance. The precision of the strokes and details, embellished with written notes, demonstrate a total and deliberate control of the medium.       

Hyacinthe Ouattara, Cartographies humaines, 2018, 110x147 cm

Ink, pastel and ballpoint pen on paper

Hyacinthe Ouattara is a Burkinabe sculptor, painter, performer and drawer for who “the act of drawing is a spontaneous relation to gesture.” He is interested in “catching the emotion of the moment.”

His « human cartographies », as well as the rest of his work, are complex and colorful. Focusing his practice on the study of the human body and cells, he draws dreamy and ghostly maps, studying social relations. 

He dares to mix ink, pastel, and ballpoint pen to explore and magnify the diversity of textures and shapes, creating his own heterogeneous and convoluted universe. 

Using these different mediums is a way to multiply the number of technical possibilities and allows Hyacinthe Ouattara to create rich and fantasist scenes. 

Ballpoint pen is then magnified in the works of many contemporary artists such as Ibrahima Dieye, Abu Bakar Mansaray, and Raymond Tsham – in the work of who a simple black pen is enough to cover pages of statues inspired by Congo and other countries. 


For additional information and to get the complete catalogue of the exhibition, send us an email at florian@afikaris.com.