What We Don’t See

‘Not only are Fadairo’s etchings steeped in the ocher and lateritic duration of Africa, he also bears witness to the ethics and symbolism which give strength and power to the magic of colors’

- Yacouba Konaté, Professor of Philosophy, Université Félix Houphouet-Boigny, Abidjan.

Soto Gallery is pleased to present What We Don’t See, a major survey of mixed-media works by Beninese master, Ludovic Fadairo. It is the artist’s first exhibition in Nigeria and English-speaking West Africa.

Showing rarely seen works made between 2013 and 2023, this survey charts a critical and especially prolific period in Fadairo’s five-decade career. In this time, the artist, who works across painting, sculpture, and installation, has experimented with a range of materials and compositional techniques, including acrylic on canvas, chalk, sand, clay, and a method he calls ‘Sculpeinture’, a combination of sculpture and painting based techniques.

With Sculpeinture, Fadairo enters into a process, often gradual and iterative, that insists simultaneously on formal rigor and uninhibited intuition. Beginning with detailed sketches and progressing in layers of color and texture, markings are applied with the force and gesture of the moment itself, dictated as much by the artist’s mood as by the material. For Fadairo, it is critical that ‘the material imposes itself on the work’. A point that can only be arrived at through total immersion and receptiveness. Afterward, the pieces, many of which he still considers unfinished, are exposed to rather than preserved from the elements, resulting in surfaces that appear aged, hardy, and uneven.

What these surfaces reveal or fail to reveal about their inner workings is pertinent to the theme of this exhibition. With What We Don’t See, Fadairo not only questions the value and reliability of visual experience, he unravels the terse, dependent relationship between the seen exterior of everyday life and its unseen interior. And between these two poles, he orchestrates a meeting of ‘matter, signs and symbols’ through which he might rediscover God, and through which we might, as in Derek Walcott’s The Prodigal, ‘break through veils like spiders’ webs’.

This debut exhibition serves as a critical reintroduction to Ludovic Fadairo’s formidable oeuvre and a re-emphasis of his status among the few living pioneers of contemporary art in Africa.


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