“I work without rules. I physicalize memories, dreams, music, etc… My mission is to find a balance between the ugly and the beautiful, the light and the dark. To create an energy that speaks to me. When I have captured this energy, I feel that the work is finished. But a work is never until it has found its final surroundings.”
There is something of an instinctual, primal urgency to the works of Zambian-born Jack Kabangu. His recurrent imagery of hovering, face-like forms – demarcated with broad and frenetic mark-making and bright colours – seem to comment as much on African tribal masks of his youth (Kabangu moved to Copenhagen at the age of nine), as they appear to subvert the derogatory ‘Jim Crow’ caricature of the 19th century, or the latter era Golliwog stereotypes. Kabangu owns his imagery, approaching these forms with brightly coloured large lips and twisted, frenetically applied skeins of zig-zagging hair. Kabangu’s abstracted faces are as much about a physical response – an artist’s mark-making on a surface, that is at times lyrical, musical, fluid, or even aggressive – that is disarming and compelling for viewers.
But there is something enigmatic – despite their immediacy – in what Kabangu chooses to reveal or conceal. And from this technique is a brazenly confident repositioning of Kabangu’s (now trademark) reductive form – these nondescript orange eyes, these purple lips – as inherently empowering for the young artist. A quick Google search reveals the artist himself standing amid his creations, and this figure seems a confident sentinel of African identity. It is like a signal, one where the viewer is responsible for (re)configuring its meaning, (as opposed to being told what to think), the responsibility to remove these referents from a prejudicial and pejorative historicity into a newly empowered arena, where a young black man can create a new, metaphoric, exciting, colourful mode of relaying the burdens of the past and the promise of a new future with a wry and empathetic sensibility, as well as the deft skill and confidence of a new young master.