Iba N'Diaye
The Art History Archive - Paintings

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Iba N'Diaye was born in 1928 in Saint Louis, Senegal, which, like all port towns, is a place where many races and cultures meet. At the age of fifteen, when he was a student at the Lyce Faidherbe, he painted film posters for the town's two cinemas. This early familiarity with cinematographic images would eventually influence his painting techniques.

By 1949 he was living in Paris, where he studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and frequented the city's jazz clubs. But it is the sculptor Zadkine to whom he owes his discovery of traditional African sculpture. Soon he began to travel around Europe, visiting art museums with his pencil and sketchbook in hand.

However, he did not forget his native country, and it was Senegal's independence that led him to return home in 1959. He enthusiastically accepted an invitation to participate in the creation of the Ecole des Arts du Senegal, where his first personal exhibition was held in 1962, and where he remained as a teacher until 1966.

With the goal of asserting a "black identity", the organizers of the Contemporary Art Exhibition at the first "Festival des Arts Negres" (Dakar, 1966) favored the Primitivist movement, which Iba N'Diaye had tried in vain to oppose. Once again, he realized that it was preferable for him to leave his native country. It was in Paris, at his studio in the "Atelier de la Ruche", as well as at his country home in the Dordogne in southwestern France, that Iba N'Diaye began his series of 10 oil paintings on the theme of "Tabaski" (the ritual sacrifice of a lamb). These paintings were exhibited in France in 1970 at the Sarlat Festival, and again in 1974 at the Maison de la Culture in Amiens.

In 1981, Iba N'Diaye showed his work in New York for the first time. The catalogue accompanying this exhibition, which concentrated on the theme of jazz, contains a preface written by Lowery Sims, then curator of the Modern Art Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 1987, the Museum fr Vlkerkunde in Munich organized the first major retrospective of Iba N'Diaye's works in Europe. This exhibit then traveled to the Africa Museum of Berg en Dal in Holland in 1989, and to the Tampere Museum of Modern Art in Finland in 1990.

Iba N'Diaye's temporary move to a studio in the Montmartre area of Paris, and his travels back and forth between the Dordogne region in southwestern France and the 15th arrondissement of Paris, could have distanced him from his native Africa, but instead led to a resurgence of memories of his childhood and adolescence.

In 1996, the Museum Paleis Lange Voorhout in The Hague hosted "Iba N'Diaye: Painter between Continents", an exhibition organized by Franz Kaiser, head curator at the Gemmentemuseum, also in The Hague. This show presented significant works illustrating N'Diaye's Thematic Series, which developed over the forty-year career of an artist who is a model of tenacity.

In January, 2000, Iba N'Diaye began the new millennium with an exhibition in Saint Louis, his birthplace, which he had left fifty years earlier. This show illustrated his objective: to succeed in constructing a personal and authentic style of painting that bridges the continents and draws on the rich reservoir of global culture.

"To paint, for me, was to discover what others did before learning, and to understand the language of the profession I was entering." - Iba N'Diaye, 2002.

About His Artwork:

Iba N'Diaye's work develops in Thematic Series. Rather than following one another in chronological order, the works in these series overlap, are dropped and resumed later on, each starting from some visual experience and processing it. In fact, they are never really concluded.

They are not commentaries on any of the experiences or themes that once triggered them, but rather, the theme prompts the occasion; it is a catalyst around which pure painting develops.

In his representations of jazz musicians and singers, Iba makes a particular effort to find the appropriate vocabulary for his subject. He succeeds in making the sounds perceptible, and in his drawings he depicts the contours of faces and instruments with as much care and complexity as the musicians themselves employ in their pursuit of melody.

The paintings of the 'Tabaski' series refer to the Muslim ritual of sacrificing a lamb. They are inspired by experiences from the painter's youth in Saint-Louis as well as from his surroundings in Dakar in the sixties and during later visits.

The works which form part of the 'The Cry of a Continent' series -- including the painting which refers to the 'Portrait of Juan de Pareja' by Velasquez -- address socio-political themes to a greater degree than any others.

However, these paintings are not commentaries on a given situation, but rather, are emotive transpositions of the artist's feelings about life.

In his series of 'Cries', Iba N'Diaye, at the height of his expression, reaches beyond everything he knows about art. These crude drawings, executed in a vigorous oil wash, no longer belong to any particular tradition. Instead, they transcend comparison by going directly to the heart of all traditions, expressing the rebellion of mankind, who calls on the gods (that is to say, himself) to save him, or to avenge him.

The 'Paysages' ("Landscapes") originate from N'Diaye's 1970/71 winter sojourn in Mali. They show an increasing detachment from representation and are painted in a much freer manner. Indeed, their textures are unpainterly, more comparable to those of the dyed fabrics surely observed by the artist in his youth in Saint-Louis.

In his paintings on the theme of "The Painter and his Model", Iba N'Diaye takes up the challenge of the portrait and the self-portrait. This is a subject with which he is quite familiar since it is a classic theme that appears throughout the history of western art, and was taken up again in the twentieth century, most notably by Picasso.

His drawings from the 1970s and 80s are often studies on paper, or come from the artist's sketchbooks. They attempt to analyze the structure of the sculptures in an effort to grasp the essence of their forms. As of yet, Iba has never used these studies in his painting. Recently interviewed on the subject, he replied that they had been a more or less conscious means for him to "appropriate" the three-dimensional forms of African sculpture.

For Iba N'Diaye, the eye evokes the view of the "world beyond" that the fortune-tellers of his youth consulted using cowries, small shells commonly utilized in animist rituals.

Paintings by Iba N'Diaye:

  • Tabaski la Ronde qui le Tour - 1970
  • Sahel - 1977
  • The Cry / Head of a Djem Statuette Nigeria - 1976
  • Study of an African Sculpture - 1977
  • The Painter and his Model - 1979
  • Study of a W Mask - 1982
  • Jazz in Manhattan - 1984
  • Big Band - 1986
  • Juan de Pareja Attacked by Dogs - 1986
  • The Cry - 1987
  • Hommage Bessie Smith - 1987
  • Trombone - 1995
  • Trio - 1999