Stippled white dots float like lace across an endlessly black background. They radiate in rings like ripples of water or intersect with the intricacy of a spider’s web. A leopard marches toward two spiraling red flowers above a dark haired woman who appears to have emerged from the ivory backdrop of a fairy tale. Afi Nayo works with these seemingly disparate symbols and forms to probe the space between abstraction and reality.
Afi Nayo is an artist of Cameroonian origin who was born in 1969 in Togo. At an early age, she moved with her family to Paris, where she still lives and works. She explores the shadowy worlds of love, spirituality, corporeality and ephemerality. Figures pop out as if from behind curtains or bushes. Some are rendered in loving detail, others appear to be mere shadows or traces. The dreamy faces of her ladies are as desirable as one of Klimt’s heroines at the same time that they look out at the viewer, longing for love. They are surrounded by the line, “je t’aime” (I love you), repeated over and over as if in a schoolgirl’s notebook. Nayo’s doodles, glimpses and symbols emerge against a field of inky black that recalls a chalkboard--on which we can still read the traces of past as new ideas appear. With a delicate and fragile touch, Nayo manipulates time showing the specters of the past alongside the fleeting images and fantasies of the present and future. In Love Suite I, presence and absence, abstraction and representation intersect poetically for Nayo’s enchanting take on love.
Square format, mixed-media painting with textured surface and ribbing along edges to create box-like frameworks, particularly within the upper half. The surface is dominated by black pyrogravure with free-floating elements that include repetition of the words, “je’t’aime,” a cat on the upper proper left, faces set against ivory backgrounds, flowers, diamonds and hearts.
African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 2013-ongoing (installed November 6, 2014)