Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté is known for creating enormous works from textiles, including one the size of a football pitch. Fifteen of his more modestly sized, but equally impressive, brightly coloured textile tableaux will hang in London for the first time next week at Blain|Southern, having made the journey across continents from the artist’s studio base in Bamako.
The exhibition’s title – 'Symphonie en couleur' ('Symphony in colour') – illustrates the artist’s ongoing interest in music. His compositions in thread allude to the traditional capes worn by Senufo musicians from areas of southwestern Mali and the north of the Ivory Coast. Looking at the large-scale fabric pieces, with their subtle gradients of coloured ribbons and strips of hand-embroidered cotton, you can almost hear the mellifluous sounds of the marimba and the drums. Konaté understands hue as a master musician understands his instrument.
Music has a fundamental place across West Africa and in Malian culture and custom; it is both a way to preserve tradition and ancestral roots and an animated part of contemporary life – represented too in Konaté’s art, that combines a laborious, long-established technique and traditional materials with a modern visual language that is in dialogue with the history of painting.
Elsewhere in the exhibition, which focuses exclusively on works created this year, Konaté draws inspiration from his local natural environment. L'oiseau rouge, for example, is named after a bird he used to see as a child; while Composition vert émeraude et rouge uses a polychromatic pattern that refers to the region’s geology – rocks and minerals such as amethyst, epidote, garnet and quartz.