Creative expression meets future science in Degenerative Evolution of the Living – the mindblowing new solo exhibition from Absa L’Atelier 2016 Merit Award winner, Ugandan Donald Wasswa. Intriguing and provocative, the exhibition promises to change the way audiences look at animals, man and the evolution of both in our scientifically advanced modern society.
Dr Paul Bayliss, Absa Art and Museum Curator, says the Absa Gallery is thrilled to welcome Wasswa in this fascinating new exhibition. ‘Donald is renowned for pushing the boundaries in his art, and we’re incredibly privileged to host his first solo exhibition since his L’Atelier win and his first-ever solo exhibition in South Africa. Exhibitions like this are just another way in which Absa L’Atelier aims to help further the careers of our continent’s emerging artists, and audiences to this showcase will not be disappointed,’ says Dr Bayliss.
Degenerative Evolution of the Living explores the concept of animals and their progressive development through a wide range of artworks, rendered in Wasswa’s highly engaging trademark style. It draws on themes such as Charles Darwin’s natural selection theory; living species’ desire to propagate better offspring than themselves to ensure their long-term survival; cloning and the amplification of human intelligence with artificial intelligence.
‘The exhibition was inspired by the process of transformation, with a focus on humans versus a given environment, and the influence and effects of science and technology on both humans and their surroundings today. It’s an idea I developed after a discussion with fellow artists Genza Peter and Nakitende Sheila, where I imagined our current era as being the past, and humans living in a future existence – with these futuristic humans and animals presented in a museum-like space,’ explains 33-year-old Wasswa, who has long drawn inspiration from animals and animalistic forms.
Much of the appeal of Wasswa’s work – often described as unconventional and even experimental – lies in its abstract realism combined with his diverse use of media; he enjoys painting, sculpture and multimedia, with wood and mixed media being his current favourites.
This is evident in the exhibition, which features 22 ink on paper drawings; nine sculptures carved from the indigenous Ugandan hardwoods, teak, albizia and ebony; two wall sculptures and a set of three free-standing sculptures; and two installations.
Three of the drawings featured were conceptualised while Wasswa was in residency at the Sylt Foundation on the island of Sylt, Germany, which he won as part of his L’Atelier Merit Award.
‘I had the best time of my life during my residency. I used the time to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life, what made sense in life, what was life etc. It was refreshing; the perfect break. I made a few drawings related to how I was feeling at the time, even though I had not planned to make any works. Later, when I began to organise my works for this show, I realised three of the drawings I did during my residency were directly in line with the key themes I was exploring, adds Wasswa.
Those themes, he hopes, will inform public discussion and debate on the effects of the environment, time, and science and technology on human development.
Wasswa grew up in Nakivubo Flats in downtown Kampala, but today lives and works in Buziga, a suburb in Kampala, where he runs Artpunch Studio.
Degenerative Evolution of the Living runs from 26 March until 20 April 2018 at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg. The Gallery will also produce a virtual walk-thru of the exhibition, which will allow Wasswa’s many fans across Africa, including in his home country of Uganda, to enjoy the exhibition.