LONDON - The Saatchi Gallery Pangaea II catalogue cover shows at one glance the historical and geographic link between the two continents of Africa and Latin America before they broke apart 200 million years ago: two land-masses attached and yet divided. Vibrant colours, naïve styles, and strong imagery inform this journey through a cultural vocabulary that captures the viewer before the backstories take hold.


The galleries at the Saatchi Gallery. Courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery.

It is indeed an eye opener to see a reality that is far more complex than we had imagined, with multiple visions of contemporary practice that expand and illuminate their points of origin. Artists from both continents are increasingly based within urban contexts, demonstrating the inevitable pluralities and multiplicities of such an environment. The visions projected by these artists are at once personal and public, reflexive and reactive, open and closed.


The galleries at the Saatchi Gallery. Courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery.

A focal exhibit of 97,000 plastic bags by Jean-François Boclé makes a striking statement about ephemerality (Everything Must Go), contrasting sharply with such painterly works as Woman with Dog by Eduardo Berliner. Basquiat-like works by Aboudia tell a very different story from the colour-blocks of Federico Herrero. The common thread for me was the vibrancy and eloquence of the whole show – like so many messages longing to be told.


The galleries at the Saatchi Gallery. Courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery.

Which brings me to another small but fascinating African show at Vigo Gallery by the celebrated Ibrahim El-Salahi who recently had a major retrospective at the Tate Modern. For me, Salahi’s impressive, large scale dyptich and tryptichs in pen and ink on paper are always the most captivating. Both stylized and expressive, these are the major works that form the backbone of this artist’s oeuvre. “Flamenco” as a show contains both important and rather sketchy works – more is the pity about the high prices! However, one cannot but appreciate the extraordinary talent of this African artist – the first to be celebrated by so many museums across the world.


The galleries at the Saatchi Gallery. Courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery.