Text Nadine PRIAM - senior journalist- IESA PARIS- Art market.
Grace. Everything in Guylène CONQUET's figurative art primarily evokes a gentleness. The circle is the preferred form. Everything rounds: the eyes admire the drawing of the lips; the subjects express a smile, a serenity, a pleasure. Her portraits invade the canvas with supreme confidence and captivate the viewer.
. The key word. An invitation. Almost a leitmotif.
Let's occupy the spaces! DARE! LET'S BE!
The artist takes pleasure in exploiting black paint; a shade once cursed (because it was perceived difficult to work with) in the history of art and which only began to assert itself in Europe during the 19th century. Special attention should be given to the pictorial treatment of black skin tones using oil alone to create the palette. Shades of grey, - up to ten -, (who among us can recall that nothing is simple in such a path) ; and a play of shadows and light enhanced by solid areas of bright color to highlight the hairstyles.
The iconography is reminiscent of the Black Panthers era combined with that of the disco. Born within African-American movements from the 1970s, these strong representations carried a message of affirmation and a demand which the diasporas then appropriated and adapted.
Guylène Conquet is part of this movement bringing its essence into the contemporary. Almost 50 years later, it's not just about enhancing the natural hair but something which has taken on a more global resonance regarding identity. The context is different. The seeds sown by the precursors germinated and sprouted shoots. These shoots are more determined to grow and prosper (The evocation of the plant world in the achievements is to be related to this notion of rooting). The death of the African-American Georges Floyd was a blast heard by all of the Afro-descendant diasporas all over the planet. This dramatic injustice cemented the consciousness of a black community of its destiny. It was also an
opportunity for another level of awareness from the diaspora; of the diaspora.
MOMENTUM ACROSS THE DIASPORAS. She has been speaking with one voice for (too) short a time and is now getting organized beyond language and cultural barriers. Also, behind the representation of these women and men wearing their hairstyle is a pride and a re- claimed serenity. Guylene Conquet deals with a central issue in the world of black diasporas; that of unity through hair. The evocation of Afro hairstyles, the demand for natural hair is an entry point for the artist to summon all that may have separated these communities in order to now discuss them point by point and thus rethink the community bond. It is about climbing out of this obsessive study of the minutiae of ourselves to finally embody what more and more appears to be a 6th continent, that of diasporas of African descent. The point of view has weight and is well thought out. Indeed, after the prejudice of color there is the prejudice on natural hair. The system which still inspires women and their daughters to consider smooth
hair as the only acceptable canon of beauty is not a trivial subject. How many historical texts remind us of the reasons behind certain infanticide in the days of the housing society? These documents reveal occurrences of the murder of Métis newborns on the grounds of their hair considered too natural; betraying his hidden black ancestry and thereby obstructing, according to his relatives, his chances of social advancement.
In this context and many unrecorded, the natural hair may have been a matter of life and death for some in world history. It was also the feature to be hidden with a headscarf on the plantations of the southern United States, at the behest of the settlers. The question of natural hair is not just a question of aesthetics and it is highly topical in African countries and their more recent diasporas as well as those resulting from the transatlantic slave trade all over the world.
The natural hair refers us to our ancestry, and our degree of acceptance of this lineage. Guylene Conquet's approach, far from being an
aesthetic plea, refers to what is intimate in our relationship to our image. Natural hair refuses to be silent about its existence or presence. The use of roundness as an aesthetic criteria in her painting; the roundness in her brushstrokes, the concern for delicate softness in the color palette, creates a universe which reminds us that confronting this subject can be done without pain. It also reminds us that more than ever the subject is a central leitmotif in the dialogue of identify , one of the roots that makes visibly the black world ONE.
Curatorial text Nadine PRIAM - senior journalist- IESA PARIS- Art market.
BLACK HISTORY HAIR
When the slaves where brought to America in the 1700s, their native hair was referred to as "wool”. For slave owners the slaves culture and hair texture was not appealing so they began to systematically erase it. Smoother textures of Caucasian and mixed-heritage hair textures were seen as more favorable. The phrase "good hair" makes its way into the lexicon and the cultural stigma continues until today.
Different tools have helped black women and men to straighten their frizzy hair so as to promote a feeling of acceptance by society (hot iron, relaxer, straightening, ...)
Later, natural hair became a claim to black culture with the help from organizations such as the Black Panthers and the Black Power movement. Political activist Angela Davis embodies the Black Power movement of the 1970s, letting her own Z-curl texture grow into an Afro. Many other celebrities support for the movement. International stars Diana Ross and the Jackson five made the afro hairstyle a fashionable hairstyle for Blacks around the world.
The Just Afro project aims to raise awareness about the culture and history of Afro hair. It is an educational project to teach young women and men self-esteem through knowledge of their own history.
MY ART WORK
My paintings express my natural hair journey, from rejection to acceptance, from embarrassment to pride. Afro is my way of seeing natural hair even though there are many other natural expressions of hair: (locks, braids, degrades, box braid ...). It is a link to a culture lost and the hope for a people who are at many times are in search for acceptance and something to call their own.
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