Whilst Musée de l'Orangerie pays a tribute to surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico called "the man who lost his shadow" the exhibition "Your Shadows" proposes a double gaze on this phenomenon from October 28th to November 29th 2020 through the works Saïdou Dicko and Raphaël Adjetey Mayne.



Physical phenomena are at the heart of myths, tales and legends: from the allegory of the cave, to Bucephalus the "indomitable" horse of Alexander the Great, to Peter Pan. Shadows both fascinate and frighten. Shadows embody the unknown. Shadows are an interpretation. Strangely, their absence or manipulation - which made surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico famous - also disturb the eye. Founding member of the art movement Metaphysical Painting, he was above all seeking to paint what is beyond, detaching himself from the world, despite a figurative painting to initiate a metaphysical thought. If Giorgio de Chirico was called by journalist Pierre Mazars “the man who lost his shadow”, in the preface of his memoirs, Saïdou Dicko and Raphaël Adjetey Adjei Mayne give shadows and outlines a prominent role in their work. The black strokes, emancipated from their role of shadow, reveal themselves to become the subject of the action. Thus, the exhibition “Your Shadows” offers a double gaze on this phenomenon. Whilst shadows are a projection of reality, by keeping only the outline of their subject, the artists challenge our perception of the world and invite us to see further. In this case, shadows are not embodying an evil double like in Guy de Maupassant’s novel Le Horla or an object of fear. They are the support of the imaginary, carrying freedom and creativity whilst conveying messages.

Painted photography - Unique piece
45 x 60 cm

Shadows have always inspired Saïdou Dicko’s work. When he was a child, the shadows pushed him to draw. Whilst he was a shepherd, he used to trace the outlines of the bushes, animals and rivers he met. The cross on top of the head of his characters also echo his childhood. That is a wink to the pattern of one fabric from the Peulh tradition. For him, it is a way to pay a tribute to beauty and to represent the humanity of his characters. To this extent, he turns them into shadows. He explains: “With the shadow, we see a person as a human being. I’m interested in humans because this is this humanity that binds us together. I use the shadow to erase the appearance and to recall the imaginary. By looking at my pictures, we can imagine who this person is. For me, the imaginary is part of the artwork.” If his photographic work was firstly focusing on capturing the shadows of people in the street, Saïdou Dicko freed himself from the constraint of the position of the sun. His series of painted photographs “The shadowed people” - unique pieces - a combination of different clichés, where he covers the subject with black paint. In that way, the beings give their place to their shadow, providing a universal scope to the work. The artist asks: “Why did we become spectators of drama that we could have avoided? Why are we so alone in the middle of it all?”

Saïdou chooses the photomontage technique, combining the tradition of studio photography with documentary photography. If they are artificially made images, Saïdou Dicko insists on sticking to reality. The different layers give life to the final picture - from the characters staged, to the cans and the colourful fabrics - all photographs taken himself, assembled harmoniously. Thus, the final artworks tell the story of these characters through documentary photographs. They jump from one background to another and from one frame to another, like a constantly evolving photographic display. The life experiences of Saïdou Dicko, between Paris and Burkina Faso, his native culture and his travels, leave their mark on his work with poetry as well as mystery.

Acrylic and fabrics on canvas
175 x 117 cm

If Saïdou Dicko turns his subjects into shadows, Raphaël Adjetey Adjei Mayne represents them using a black flat area. He focuses on the colour of their skin to highlight their story. Raphaël fights to deconstruct the biases of which they are the target. He aims to underline the power, combativeness and humanity of his characters, standing against any form of racism. These outlines are not shadows. They embody the strength of their character. They become shadows, victims of stereotypes and discriminations.

If Kehinde Wiley’s or Jean David Nkot's hyperrealism makes the people they depict emerge from anonymity, showcasing their personality, strengths and weaknesses, Raphaël Adjetey Adjei Mayne prefers a minimalistic representation. He details: “It is also the idea to represent my story through these flat black portraits. When you look at them very closely, you can see the eyes, you can see the nose. If I painted my characters in an overly figurative way, with light and modulations, it would reduce the intensity or the message I want to convey.”

To focus on the power of his speech, Raphaël Adjetey Adjei Mayne only keeps a few details, as if a too precise drawing would attenuate it. He serves the cause of those the society does not accept, dealing with education, gender, identity and political issues. He brings together his past as well as his future. The specificity of Raphaël Mayne’s work comes from his artistic process as well as the medium he uses. Fabrics are characteristic of his practice and also support his message. They are chosen to match the image that inspires the work and to highlight its central figures. 

Thus, in Saïdou Dicko’s work as well as in Raphaël Adjetey Adjei Mayne’s, details erase in favour of an evocative shape to put forward the human. Through these black painted outlines, attracting the visitor’s imagination, the artists convey above all, a message of freedom, emancipation and equality. 

Saïdou Dicko concludes in his text about “The shadowed people” series: “I’m just a shadow, your shadow, their shadows, my shadow.” These shadows are everybody's shadows, engaging the entirety of humanity to think about the world and the human condition.

To get more information and the press release, please contact Michaëla HADJI-MINAGLOU at michaela@afikaris.com