Press Release

On view from January 26 to May 12, 2019, see exhibitions by artists from different global regions, Omar Ba, Shuvinai Ashoona and Alicia Henry, as they draw connections from their own histories and identities to reflect on our past, present and future.



International exhibitions

International Archives 1st half of 2019

Omar Ba, Shuvinai Ashoona, Alicia Henry, Winter Season

The Power Plant, Toronto (Canada)

26.01 - 12.05.2019




Omar Ba, Shuvinai Ashoona, Alicia Henry, Winter Season The Power Plant, Toronto

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2019. All Rights Reserved

Omar Ba , Same Dream
Curator: Nabila Abdel Nabi, Associate Curator

Omar Ba’s works confronts us with some of the most urgent issues of our present—from the growing inequality of wealth and power across society to questions around immigration, post-colonial relations and our changing relationship to the natural world. The exhibition brings together several works from his series on dictators who maintain and generate the corruption in many countries where the legacies of colonialism persist. These despotic warlords, at times represented as fantastical beasts, are often enveloped by an abundance of lush flora and fauna, as the beauty of the natural world appears to endure despite inhumane atrocities. Ba's work, which engages with the violence and exploitation of colonialism, resonates within a multiplicity of contexts, both globally and locally.

In conversation with the dictator series, the exhibition also presents works that speak to his affinity for portraying the strength of the human spirit—depictions of youth who, regardless of where they are, share some of the same dreams and desires for the future.

Ba’s practice sprang from painting on walls in Dakar, and he has continued working in this mode within the gallery context using everyday materials, ubiquitous in his surroundings. For the exhibition at The Power Plant, Ba has developed a new large-scale, site-specific commission exploring a recurrent motif of birth, death and reincarnation across different cultures today. Ba’s profound ability to depict personal narratives alongside collective ones, passed down through traditions of oral storytelling, bridge older and younger generations—he works often in this mode, mixing and intertwining a range of imagery and iconography: figurative and decorative ornamentation, past and present, African and European cultures, even the techniques and materials that he employs upon the canvas. Ba’s global perspective ultimately evokes a shared cosmogony between humans, plants and animals.

Same Dream is Omar Ba’s first institutional solo exhibition.

Shuvinai Ashoona, Mapping Worlds
Guest Curator: Nancy Campbell, PhD
Assistant Curator: Justine Kohleal, RBC Curatorial Fellow 2018-2019

The exhibition Mapping Worlds features pencil crayon and ink drawings produced by Shuvinai Ashoona over the past two decades. Many of Shuvinai’s early drawings depict scenes of Kinngait (formerly known as Cape Dorset, in Nunavut), continuing an artistic tradition begun by the Ashoona family, including her grandmother Pitseolak Ashoona (1904-1983) and cousin Annie Pootoogook (1969–2016). Living in Kinngait on the southern tip of Baffin Island, Shuvinai is part of Can ada’s Inuit culture. She produces her work at Kinngait Studios, the art arm of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. Incorporated in 1959, the Studio has the strongest and longest tradition of any community–run, art making co-operative in the Arctic. Due to the stability and longevity of the co-op’s management, four generations of Inuit artists have developed and sold their art around the world.

Shuvinai’s work is unique among the artists working in Kinngait. She is best known for her highly personal and imaginative iconography, with imagery ranging from closely observed naturalistic scenes of her Arctic home to monstrous and fantastical visions. Her drawings imagine the past and present fused into a prophetic future such as human-animal hybrid creatures, women birthing worlds, and mystical or otherworldly landscapes clearly inspired by the terrain of her northern home. Far from being dystopic, Shuvinai’s brightly coloured drawings teem with life; and while her community occasionally clashes with the artist’s creatures, as seen in the work Untitled (Hunting Monsters) (2015), they often also peacefully co-exist, as evidenced in Composition (People, Animals and the World Holding Hands) (2007–2008). Unlike many settler visions of the future that seem to dwell on clashes between humans and nature, humans and other humans, or humans and otherworldly ‘invaders’, Shuvinai’s earthly and extraterrestrial worlds exist within a kinder intergalactic future.

Today, television shows like The Walking Dead (2010–present) stimulate our fears of the unknown, the monstrous and the "Other" in a manner that risks increasing our xenophobia and provoking violence. Shuvinai’s work speaks to these current anxieties, yet her artwork does not depict humans in opposition to the otherworldly. By appropriating images that reflect her fascination with horror films, comic books and television, Ashoona merges different imagery with everyday narratives to redraw the map of the boundaries between reality and fantasy, past and future.

Alicia Henry, Witnessing
Guest Curator: Daina Augaitis

For the last two decades, Alicia Henry has been exploring unconventional approaches to portraiture, using the face to represent something that is hidden, revealed and performed. Originally from Illinois, Henry has lived for the past 20 years in Nashville, TN, where she is an artist and professor of art.

Henry creates two-dimensional figures and group compositions that are commanding in their grace and expressiveness. Selecting her media carefully, she works with felt, canvas and other textiles, as well as leather and paperboard, all of which absorb her drawn and stitched gestures that register a spectrum of contexts and emotions. Notions of gender and family are significant in her works, as are physical layers that suggest multiple and unfixed identities. Tender renditions of a mother with child appear, as do groupings of twenty or more females that signify formations of like-minded “families” within communities.

In this, her first Canadian exhibition, Henry’s compelling compositions are drawn from a multitude of references: the artist’s own memories, her collection of West African masks and events on the street or on television, to name but a few. Imbued with her perspective as an African American woman, the figures assert themselves as timeless witnesses embodying the impact of personal and social histories.

In a recent conversation about her practice, Henry explained that she does not view her work as political, but nonetheless acknowledges that “at this time in the United States, the brown body has become politicized.” In her installations, composed primarily of dark-toned figures, a lingering melancholy evokes racial traumas suffered by innumerable groups and individuals, today and over the centuries. But simultaneously—through their direct gaze and erect composure—Henry’s multigenerational survivors exude a powerful strength and confidence. They stand in anticipation of an egalitarian future—a utopian goal that underpins much of Henry’s practice.

Witnessing is Alicia Henry’s first solo exhibition in Canada.

Omar Ba, Afrique, Pillage, Arbres, Richesses, 2014. Oil, gouache, ink and pencil on corrugated carton, 199 x 150 cm. Copyright the artist. Image courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery.

Omar Ba, Afrique, Pillage, Arbres, Richesses, 2014. Oil, gouache, ink and pencil on corrugated carton, 199 x 150 cm. Copyright the artist. Image courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery.

Exhibition January 26 - Mai 12, 2019. The Power Plant , 231 Queens Quay West , Toronto Ontario M5J 2G8 (Canada). T. +1 416 973 4949. Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm, Thursday 10am–8pm.