Kamala Ibrahim Ishag: States of Oneness
Everything is connected in Kamala Ibrahim Ishag’s world: connected and fractured and pixelated. In the 1970s, the Sudanese painter was part of a movement called the crystalists who saw the universe as a crystal cube, its component parts all shifting depending on your perspective. It’s a far out point of view that she soon left behind, but the interconnectedness of all things still courses through this show of work from throughout her career. Her early work is filled with dark, twisted, sombre faces, their teeth bared, their features blurred and elongated. They seem to emerge out of some gloom, like they’re materialising out of thin air, out of the night sky. A series of paintings shows faces seen through glass prisms, creating new angles, new shapes, distorting and distending human subjects, like a world of Francis Bacon ice cubes. These are dark, weird, gorgeous things, nodding to traditional east African ceremonies but shot through with the influence of Western painters. Faces then start to appear not out of the gloom, but out of nature. More recent paintings swirl with grasses and bark and leaves and mud, visages coalescing on tree trunks and foliage. It’s a display of spiritual one-ness that feels hopeful and optimistic. I prefer the darker, earlier works, but it’s all connected, isn’t it? It has to be, because everything is.