PRESENTED BY CHRISTOPHER MOLLER GALLERY
21 NOVEMBER – 15 DECEMBER 2023
NO STONE UNTURNED
Solo Exhibition by Michael Gah
FASHIONING FORGIVENESS & PERSPECTIVE THROUGH ART
As our relationship with Michael Gah deepens, we and our collectors are welcomed into a new body of work that shows even more complexity – both in spirit and in practice. Gah has garnered much interest in the art world thanks to his compelling portraits that depict life through his lens while honouring influential figures in his life. His striking work offers commentary on the African urban status quo as he sees it and crucially, incorporates upcycled textiles and traditional African prints into his work.
Textiles play a multi-layered and fundamental role in much of the messaging within Gah's compelling artwork. His mother Rejoice is a single mother and a talented seamstress, and she and other female family members' ability to create masterful garments out of printed textiles had a profound effect on Gah as a young man and his subsequent elevation of women into iconic status. Importantly, his work is also a commentary on the global textile industry and its effects on West African life. Much of the world's manmade (and therefore unbiodegradable) textile waste is shipped and dumped in Africa, clogging marketplaces, rivers, and landscapes and in a pointed response and commentary, Gah incorporates some of the patterned fabrics he finds in the marketplace alongside more sustainable choices (offcuts from his mother and aunts' sewing endeavours) into his art. The irony that the textiles he saves from landfill is then presented back to a global audience is precisely his point.
Something that emanates from Gah himself and certainly much of his work, is a palpable sense of optimism and grace, and this feels especially poignant given the times we live in. Despite hardships and the numerous challenges of living in a third-world country, Gah imbues a deep joy in his pieces through the use of dynamic colour marriages, bold textiles and mixed media, and a sense that there is always something to celebrate and indeed to revere. Some of his subjects pose with purpose, others are snapped amid a moment, be it in a warm embrace or revelling in the company of others. All invite the viewer to engage and question where they are at. Gah credits his mother, a woman who endeavoured to rise above the odds to create a life for her family, with this hopeful view of life. Offering his wisdom, he says 'You have to use your love to combat the negativity that people will often exude. The issue is not necessarily the person, the issue is with you.'
Juxtaposed with his richly coloured, vivacious pieces are some comparatively more subdued works, which are infused with a more reflective emotion. We see family ties captured in denim-on-denim in 'Keeping it Clean' and 'Good Vibe' and the ability to depict deep love in 'Defining Moment' – a figure dressed in a pineapple print holding an orange – a comment on the sacrifices his mother made while selling fruit in the marketplace to supplement her seamstress earnings. This direct reference to a mother with an unwavering moral compass is deeply touching and Gah's stance to broaden your love to combat negativity and to seek forgiveness over offence is
Press release courtesy Christopher Moller Gallery.