The “shop window” is well considered and reveals a theme in black and white paintings and drawings as well as interesting mobile-like sculptures. This immediately draws one in and sets the tone for an enjoyable experience, should the would-be viewer be open to the stylistic variety on display.
What is perhaps most appealing is that there is no overriding agenda - no one artist on display, nor a thematic and hierarchical top-down structure. There is thus a playful and non-linear kind of dramatic setting.
Moreover, even with the great number of works, Manaule’s gallery is not overly cluttered and as long as the eye and mind are open, one is sure to be able to absorb the works on offer.
On the whole, I found that there are works that are humorous; works that are more serious, and an almost musical pitch that one may intuit. The gallerist explains to me that while she does not dictate a specifically African or European taste, if there is such an ironclad distinction anyhow.
She is able to create a space where the works speak to one another, on a formal and content-based level. She exudes a kind of openness and love for art, without hankering after intellectual systems of thought.
This results in a certain freedom where art is celebrated. This is highlighted in the haphazard display style: works that hang in precarious places; works that find their place on the floor or in various nooks and crannies.
While one may be cynical and critique such a gallery as tailoring to “common taste” and lacking in intellectual rigour and depth, being rather traditional and uncritical and the like, I believe such assertions would be false. For there are many works that exhibit highly creative methodologies.
For example, Maurice Mbikayi, who has gone on to be represented in many biennales and art fairs, is “represented” with some early paintings, and already one may see the latent seeds for a more philosophical encounter through art.
Or the works of Stuart Valentine, who through some serendipity (or synchronicity) happened to be there at the time. He really seems to be conscious of his mark-making and in control of his medium, so that his “abstract” paintings quote the formal interventions of the past, yet he has developed an unmistakable style.
His sense of colour adds to my impression of almost going higher in a kind of musical sense, through as he put it, “knowing what I am doing”.
At the same time, in key with the ethos of the gallery and the gallerist herself, there is clearly a letting go and allowing the emotive synthesising of the right brain to do its creative, often out of the ordinary, work.
Yet the viewer may find other examples that captivate and enchant. Gone are the typed-out names and titles and so on; gone is the commercial intent to single out and represent a single artist or a “big name”, and gone is the conceptual “sophistication” of an ideological agenda.
Instead, there is a gathering of a multifaceted assortment, an organic, non-metallic feel, and thus the show circumvents any one narrative, eschewing categories and definitions. This is not to say it lacks a theoretical structure.
Only that such a structure evolves naturally. This, I believe contests the policy and institutional-driven society that attempts to mandate “right action” in cerebral terms, rather than allow an open heart to dictate what is true and fair.
In this sense, I came away from the gallery with a sense of freedom and kept one of the images in mind: the figure of Nelson Mandela facing a person meditating on top of a blank television screen amid a background that somehow recedes in memory.
One only hopes - to contextualise the Framery - that the politicians of the country do not forget the legacy of Mandela and warp his vision. Perhaps the answer then, if democracy fails, is that we should all choose not to vote!