Friday, November 15, 2013

Senegalese Artist Profile, Amary Sobel Diop

Amary Sobel Diop in his rooftop studio in Rufisque

On Wednesday, the Dakar Women’s Group Art Committee stopped by the workshop of Amary Sobel Diop.  He had been one of the members of our spring art show and had impressed us with his portrait of Kenyan activist, Wangari Muta Maathai, Nobel Prize for Peace winner in 2004.
Perfume bottles awaiting recycling
Dakar Women's Group members admiring 'Hyms for the Peace'
Amary Sobel Diop has been working professionally as an artist since his graduation from École des Arts de Dakar in 2009.  The program at École des Arts de Dakar is very competitive and only graduates 10 students a year, 5 in fine arts and 5 as teachers although all students receive the same art instruction to form the base of their education.  Amary graduated as a teacher and works at a high school in Louga.

Detail from 'Peace'

As a student he was introduced to a modern technique of piecing together plantain bark.  He took the skills learned from this piece work and applied it to aluminum and copper wire.  Amary now purchases bags of used aluminum perfume bottles and cuts them open to create sheets of aluminum.  He may choose to use the colored side of the sheet or the metallic. For his large portraits, he would then take a photograph (either public domain or used with permission) and map out the shapes and values needed to create the picture.  He often has to wait a while for his recycled materials to turn up just the right color or shade that he needs.  After the right piece is cut out, he uses an awl to punch holes in the metal and sews it together with copper wire.  Amary often inscribes by hand important background information or proverbs onto his work. Each portrait takes about thirty days to complete. The results of this painstaking process are incredible.
African view of Africa

Portrait of Aung San Su Kyi

These techniques are also used in his lamps, the metallic quilt entitled “Peace” and his maps of Africa.  The Peace quilt uses proverbs in many different languages.  Amary explains, “peace is a driving theme [in my work] because where ever you are in the world, peace is a universal desire.”  The Africa maps show the western ‘crisis’ viewpoint of Africa and the African’s point of view that Africa is a continent of solidarity and brotherhood. 

Amary works in other materials as well but always with an eye towards recycling.  He reuses old flip-flops to make new versions of African masks and sculptural columns.  He also reuses paper and shells in his work.
Masks and Sculptural Columns made of flip flops

Amary is part of a group of six artists called Du Benn, a Wolof name meaning not the same.  The group chose the name because all of the artists all have different styles and art philosophies and get together in each others homes to critique art and discuss ideas.
He exhibited his work in the OFF programs of the Dakar Art Biennale in 2012 and is slated to do so again in 2014. He is available for custom work.

recycled perfume bottle lamps construction

Sculptural columns made of recycled flip flops

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