At 26, most artists are still busy searching for a style, a signature, a vocabulary that's uniquely theirs, as opposed to a derivative of what came before.
Not Tschabalala Self. The American artist has the inventiveness and confidence that artists habitually display in mid-career. Self has invented a genre all her own: drawings that are colored in with paint and pigment, yes, but also with snippets of fabric or fur, and with fragments of other, unfinished, canvases.
She stitches the whole thing together to form the finished work. A sensitive survey of her work is currently on at Parasol Unit in London, curated by Ziba Ardalan. It's one of the exhibitions I've most enjoyed in the last year.
The figures in Self's paintings are open references to the African-American visual heritage. Yet she offers her own deeply personal interpretation of that heritage: her monumental bodies are improbably contorted, in positions that no acrobat could manage, and sometimes strike sexualized poses.
Where does this unique imagery come from? "My mother could sew very well, she could make an entire dress or outfit. She collected lots of fabrics for patches, clothing, curtains and pillow covers," Self tells Ardalan in an interview published in the exhibition catalogue. "My mother's sense of style has shaped mine. I enjoy bold colors and complicated patterns. Her ingenuity with limited materials and her ability to transform the old into new has influenced the way I approach creative projects."
The exhibition ends on March 12. For more information:
Photo credit: Tschabalala Self, Sapphire (2015) - Oil, pigment and fabric on canvas
213.3 x 152.4 cm (84 x 60 in)
Courtesy of Wassim Rasamny
Photograph by Thomas Nelford