A Review of Aboudia's Solo Exhibition Bombe Fantome at Jack Bell Gallery, Mayfair

The African artist Aboudia was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (1983) where his experiences of the 2011 civil war ultimately shaped his artistic style and practice. As the riots and violence reached a crisis point during March 2011, Aboudia was forced to take refuge in a basement studio. It is here that he began creating distinct works of art which documented the surrounding political turmoil of his country. Aboudia’s often large scale canvases and chaotic compositions are occupied by haunted figures. The artist's use of acrylic paint which incorporates mixed media such as crayon and spray paint produce scenes that appear rushed and spontaneous. Aboudia then uses the canvas as a personal form of therapy as he paints a first hand account of the brutalities that he has witnessed, ultimately forming works that force the viewer to acknowledge the tragedy of his subject matter.


Presenting his fifth solo show at Jack Bell Gallery in Mayfair, Aboudia showcases his new series of spray paintings. Mainly dominated by a colour palette of blacks, reds, greens, and yellows, they capture his signature style. Although his work is often described as having a similar energy to that of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat - which is encouraged by his selective colour palette - Aboudia still manages to separate himself from the American icon. This is achieved through his exploration of darker undercurrents and themes linked to the battles witnessed in Goya. Each canvas portrays a different narrative, yet collectively as a series the works come together to highlight the realities of war and document the street culture of the artist’s local neighbourhood. Known for specifically referencing the ‘Nouchi’ street culture and traditional forms of Vodou, his works appear godless, filled with anger and energy.



It is the figures which govern Aboudia's canvases that make his practice so engaging and memorable. Their cartoon-like appearances with their wide eyes and mouths almost resemble children’s cartoon characters, mirrorining the screams and suffering of men, women and children. In the image Blah a mother stands in the centre holding what one can only assume is her child. Her facial expression is a mixture of confusion and pain as she looks upon the ghost like figure of her now dead child. Aboudia’s choice of colours, red, green and yellow, are suggestive of the emotions this mother is experiencing -  anger, sickness, rage. In the background are scattered figures, some are faceless whilst others gaze out at the viewer with mouths either closed shut through fear or wide open as if screaming or gasping for breath. Ultimately, I believe that the African artist Aboudia’s works are nothing less than powerful tools of contemporary propaganda used to exploit the unforgivable and unfathomable realities of war.


Open 9-23rd September at Jack Bell Gallery, 13 Masons Yard, London SW1Y 6BU

Written by Lara Monro, a contributor to Arteviste.com.