MA' WAS HEAVY: BRITTNEY LEEANNE WILLIAMS, TESFAYE URGESSA, & CALEB HAHNE

30 October 2020 - 13 February 2021

Ma was heavy, but not fat; thick with child-bearing and work ...  Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken."

 

Newchild is proud to announce its second exhibition Ma' Was Heavy, a group exhibition with works by Brittney Leeanne Williams, Caleb Hahne, and Tesfaye Urgessa. This is the first time the works of these artists are exhibited in Belgium. The show's title, borrowed from John Steinbeck's critically acclaimed novel The Grapes of Wrath, reminds us of the disparity between what we see and what we know. A dichotomy of nature; the perpetual struggle between burden and grace.

 

The works in the exhibition use the representation of the human body as a tool to reflect on how both physical and emotional experiences forge our identities and manifest themselves not only in character but also in posture, form and energy. By alluding to notions of family, tradition, upbringing, and gender, as well as past and current socio-political realities, the exhibited works consider the burden that each of us harbour within our own identity. As children, our parental figures anxiously shield us from certain incomprehensible realities. Yet, in doing so, they shape our morality and disposition and inadvertently introduce an intergenerational burden which may be difficult to shed. Many of the artworks in the exhibition display this contrast; they are bold and joyful, yet dark and overpowering. A painterly oxymoron as they portray a certain naiveté and innocence, yet they manifest a distinct self-awareness of one's history with its many conquered adversities.

 

Evident in many of the works exhibited, representations of the body are transformed into symbolic sites for history and identity, rendered in vibrant colours and sublime atmospheres. The artists direct our eyes to look beyond formalism, in search of deeper -and sometimes darker- truths behind the work. Many of the works are composed in seductive forms and rather than illustrating a singular subject, they take on a metaphorical significance and transport the viewer to oneiric realities. A common thread amongst the exhibited artists is their ability to capture the resourcefulness and resilience of the human spirit, a spirit which is shaped by a collection of memories that are not based on a linear narrative, but a ramified root of an individual's truths.

 

The three artists in the exhibition have each honed a robust practice, highly idiosyncratic and easily identifiable by their distinct styles. Through their unique use of composition, scale and colour, they each put forward a fresh and contemporary vision combined with a strong subject matter and in doing so, they advance the long tradition of figurative painting.