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Julien Sinzogan - Spirit Worlds


24th September - 6th November, 2010

October Gallery presents Spirit Worlds, a bold new series of works by West African artist, Julien Sinzogan, in his first UK solo show.

Sinzogan originally trained as an architect and his use of painted pen-and-ink displays the astonishing, technical sophistication of a master draughtsman. His work is as much about the transmigration of African ‘soul’ – the persistence of her dreams, visions, ideas and unique cultural identities - across the Atlantic to the New World beyond, as it is about the return of the spirits of slaves to the African shores.

To understand Sinzogan’s work requires a certain familiarity with ideas characteristically found amongst West African groups such as the Yoruba and Fon peoples of Nigeria and Benin. In “vodoun” – one of the chief indigenous religions of Benin, it is understood that there exists a permanent link between the visible world that we inhabit and the invisible world of the spirit ancestors; a link with those who have gone before us. There is an understanding that these worlds rub shoulders with each other at all times, allowing the ‘ancestors’ to look out over the world of men and see what is happening today – even if they are only dimly perceived in their turn.

Many of the works in this exhibition, whilst drawn as an individual ‘tableau,’ combine together into larger diptychs and triptychs that show the interlocking realities of these different realms. As large monochromatic phantom ships sail towards African shores, loaded with spirits returning from the Caribbean, they intersect with another layer of reality inhabited by a living flock of birds, picked out as negative white silhouettes as they fly in front of the colourful sails of the spirits’ family crests. Another tableau depicts the floating world of the Egungun spirits, who find their naked bodies redrawn in the distinctive, symbolic, tribal patterns that mark them out as belonging to particular families as they soar above the world of men. These colourful spirits sail in a chaotic space, to be discovered as you identify a hand, a head or leg then slowly decipher the whole - the attached torso and remaining limbs all tangled, float freely in a trompe-l’oeil world that seems to defy sense as much as it does the laws of gravity.

Sinzogan’s vision, like these complex interpenetrating portraits, is both subtle and extensive, and the totality takes time to piece together. The result, however, even given his uncompromising regard for the grim realities of those darkest times of history, is both affirmative and - somehow – incredibly uplifting.

The exhibition will coincide with Black History Month, UK 2010. October Gallery opened in 1979 to exhibit the Transvangarde – the trans-cultural avant-garde and to promote artists developing new creative strategies around the world. In 2008, the acclaimed exhibition Angaza Afrika brought together major works by 12 artists who best represented the innovative and dynamic artistic practices across the African continent and the African diasporas.

Exhibition Dates:
Private View:

Opening hours:

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Julien Sinzogan: Spirit Worlds
24th September – 6th November
29th September 2010 at 6pm
October Gallery
24 Old Gloucester Street
London WC1N 3AL
020 7242 7367
020 7405 1851
Tuesday – Saturday 12.30 - 5.30pm
Courtyard café: Tuesday – Friday 12.30 - 2.30pm
Holborn/Russell Square
19, 25, 38, 55, 168 and 188




12th March – 29th May 2010

Private View Thursday 11th March 2010, 6pm – 9pm

GV Art Gallery, 49 Chiltern Street, London, W1U 6LY

Leonardo da Vinci, in the 15th century, envisaged that every small part of nature mirrored the action of the whole; he saw the human body a ‘lesser world’ – lesser in scale but not in wonder and complexity. Everything, according to the Renaissance man, was related to everything else. Leonardo saw connections where we see only differences.

Art and Science: According to C P Snow, the scientist who, in 1959, famously lectured in Cambridge about the ‘Two Cultures’: ‘The clashing point of two subjects, two disciplines, two cultures – of two galaxies, so far as that goes – ought to produce creative chances. In the history of mental activity that has been where some of the breakthroughs came.’

The chances are there now. But what is it that still separates the disciplines and its practitioners, and what is it that attracts one to the other? Where and how do artists and scientists work, and how come they end up not having much to do with each other sometimes for the whole stretch of their careers?

Experiments is the first in a series of unique, exhibitions curated by Artakt with GV Art. It brings together the work of four artists whose practice develops with close and productive collaborations with scientists. In a rare opportunity for professionals of each discipline to develop a relationship with each other, the artists and scientists
explore the others productive processes, investigating the mythology of ‘neat laboratory worker’ versa ‘chaotic, creative artist.’

Click to see the full Press Release


ethKnowcentrix - Museums Inside the Artist



10 September 2009 to 10 October 2009

The first exhibition of its kind in London, ethKnowcentrix - Museums Inside the Artist features mixed media and performance work exploring the idea of the ethnographic gaze, by four leading artists from Aotearoa (New Zealand) and the Pacific Islands.

More details on the website at

Click here to see images from the private view