The Generous Water Giant
Barthélémy Toguo, 2021
The Biennale of Sydney 2022 – being centered upon the importance of wetlands around the world, on the way for human beings to keep them alive with intelligence in a balanced way – I decided to paint on canvas a gigantic character in a lying position. This sort of Gulliver crosses the 5 parts of the canvas which represent for me the continents of the Earth. A kind of shrubby liana comes out of the giant’s mouth and returns to it after having crossed the whole space. His belly turns into a large excrescence, a vast basin of water that he shares between the 5 continents. From there come out hands that ask and receive in a gesture of call and generosity …. Everything takes place in an atmosphere that celebrates the virtues of water, by the blue color and by the fluidity of the watercolor that provokes movements of waves dynamising the density of the light…. This large canvas is for me an invitation to a world of solidarity and generosity.
The Generous Water Giant, 2022
ink and acrylic on canvas
Courtesy Bandjoun Station & Galerie Lelong & Co.
Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous assistance from the Embassy of France in Australia and l’Institut français
In his large-scale watercolours, paintings, sculptures, installations, and performances, Barthélémy Toguo addresses issues of cultural belonging, racism, exile, and displacement, from his standpoint as an African man, and an immigrant.
Political constructs like national borders and the subtler but equally divisive lines of unwritten policies of exclusion are often evoked in his works. Toguo has also tackled ecological matters and is interested in fostering closer relationships with nature, as exemplified by Bandjoun Station, a centre for art and agriculture he founded two decades ago in his native Cameroon.
Everything in Toguo’s work evokes water: submerged beings; bodies excreting fluids through their orifices; the vessels that contain them; the flowing, translucid, undulating lines that link them together.