1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London: Advisory Selections – Ocula Magazine

Somerset House sees the return of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair this week, marking the fair’s tenth anniversary in London. 1-54 London 2022 is host to 50 exhibitors from across the globe, presenting contemporary art from over 130 artists from Africa and its diaspora.
Coinciding with Frieze London and Frieze Masters, 1-54 London 2022 rounds off one of the busiest weeks of the London art calendar with a memorable offering from some of the world’s leading contemporary galleries. Take a look at some of our 1-54 highlights below.
Bertina Lopes, Maternità [Maternity] (1971). Oil on canvas. 79 x 99 cm.
Bertina Lopes at Richard Saltoun Gallery
Mozambique-born artist Bertina Lopes is regarded as a pioneering figure in contemporary African painting.
Lopes spent her formative years in Lisbon, where she learned about Portugese Modernism. Coupled with her engagement with African iconography and Mozambican politics, Lopes developed a distinct style that bridged artistic and sociopolitical concerns.
Maternità [Maternity] (1971) was produced during a turbulent period in Mozambique’s history, with the nation fighting for independence after centuries of Portugese colonial rule in a war that lasted nearly a decade.
In the year prior to the commencement of the conflict in 1964, Lopes moved to Rome, where she lived until her death in 2012.
Lopes represented Mozambique on two occasions at the Venice Biennale. Earlier this year, Richard Saltoun opened their Rome gallery with a solo exhibition of Lopes. In January 2023, Andrew Kreps Gallery will present the first U.S. solo exhibition of Lopes’ work.
Hana Yilma Godine, Substance in Ethiopia 8 (2022). Paper and oil on panel. 50.8 x 50.8 cm.
Hana Yilma Godine at Fridman Gallery
Four of Hana Yilma Godine’s captivating oil paintings will feature in Fridman Gallery’s presentation at 1-54 London.
Substance in Ethiopia 8 (2022) exemplifies the Ethiopian artist’s talent for developing bewitching figurative compositions.
Depicting an intriguing fairy-like figure with large, exaggerated ears, Godine’s painting may allude to the influence of the celebrated artist Tadesse Mesfin, under whom she studied at the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
Flashes of colour fluctuate between opacity and transparency, enhancing the magical aura of Godine’s character.
The Boston University graduate’s works will be shown by Fridman Gallery alongside those of Wura-Natasha Ogunji and Ambrose Rhapsody Murray.
Pedro Neves, Castigo (2022). Acrylic on canvas. 206 x 155 cm.
Pedro Neves at Portas Vilaseca Galeria
Pedro Neves creates striking paintings that often render multiple dimensions. Using acrylic on canvas, Neves illustrates the cultural complexities, identities, and everyday lives of Brazilian people.
Castigo (2022) evokes an optical illusion, with its radiant blue draughtboard facade enveloping three poised figures within the large-scale canvas. Only the centre figure’s face is visible; their expression unreadable.
Neves often deploys such illusionary patterns in his stylised portraits, landscapes, and still lifes, offering warped glimpses into bright, fantastical dimensions.
Born in Imperatriz, Neves studied Visual Arts and Cultural Heritage at the Arena da Cultura in Belo Horizonte.
Neves’ paintings will be shown by Portas Vilaseca Galeria alongside works by Brazilian artists Ayrson Heráclito and Mulambö.
Dawit Adnew, Another Lifestyle (2022). Acrylic on canvas. 135 x 135cm.
Dawit Adnew at Addis Fine Art
Addis Fine Art will present six acrylic paintings by rising star Dawit Adnew.
The Addis Ababa-based artist works through a highly experimental process, blending his textile design experience with his studies in iconography. Adnew’s oeuvre features an abundance of intensely coloured fauna and flora surrounding female figures.
Another Lifestyle (2022), a new painting by Adnew, showcases the artist’s marvellous aptitude for patterning and pairing of warm, non-naturalistic colours. The composition features three women, each gazing out towards the viewer in a surprisingly intimate manner.
Adnew attended the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in Addis Ababa. His work has featured in various exhibitions in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Malta.
Adjani Okpu-Egbe, Fabricated Anthropology (Quadriptych) (2019). Mixed media on wooden door panels. 200 x 305 x 28 cm.
Adjani Okpu-Egbe at Eduardo Secci
Born in Kumba in southwestern Cameroon, Adjani Okpu-Egbe contemplates the sociopolitical and economic concerns affecting Africa. Throughout his multidisciplinary practice, the London-based artist unfolds deeply personal narratives alongside themes relating to social injustice, native resistance, and Afro-Expressionism.
For 1-54 London, Eduardo Secci brings a solo presentation of mixed media works by Adjani Okpu-Egbe.
Fabricated Anthropology (Quadriptych) (2019), painted on four wooden door panels, depicts three figures trapped in a scene of apparent violence. Dark hues of turquoise and green cloak the background, while blood-red paint drips down over each character, perhaps nodding to Africa’s violent histories. Decorative vines, leaves, and flowers overlay the composition in a folkloric juxtaposition.
Okpu-Egbe often paints on salvaged materials and found objects such as deconstructed furniture. This unconventional use of materials provides a valuable perspective from the artist as social commentator.
Main image: Dawit Adnew, Another Lifestyle (2022). Acrylic on canvas. 135 x 135cm. Courtesy the artist and Addis Fine Art.


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