Exhibition features new embroidered photographic collages from Joana Choumali's "Alba'hian" series

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Exhibition features new embroidered photographic collages from Joana Choumali's "Alba'hian" series
WHOSE PEACE IS IT KEEPING?, 2024. Mixed media, embroidery, paint, manual collage, sheer fabric, and digital photograph printed on canvas. Triptych; 38 1/8 x 57 3/8 inches (96,8 x 145,7 cm) 39 7/8 x 59 1/8 x 2 1/4 inches (101,3 x 150,2 x 5,7 cm) frame.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sperone Westwater is presenting Joana Choumali’s second solo at the gallery, “I am not lost, just wandering,” featuring new embroidered photographic collages from the artist’s “Alba’hian” series.

Every morning, Choumali wakes at 5am and walks for long stretches of time interacting with the land, the buildings and the forms taking shape around her. This routine, one of introspection, takes place even when Choumali travels to other countries. Her habit is to photograph the landscapes which captivate her every morning. “The ‘Alba’hian’ series is about my experience of walking at daybreak in my city of residence Abidjan and other cities such as Dakar, Senegal, Accra, Ghana but also Essaouira, Morocco and Kyoto, Japan),” says Choumali. “In this selection, I broaden my angle of view, the size of the pieces and the characters become larger, as an evocation of inner growth.”

Combining collage, embroidery, quilting and photomontage, Choumali builds these images, layering ethereal sheer fabrics and golden paint with multiple photographs from her walks—silhouettes of passerbys or quiet empty roads. Her process is slow, as meditative as the walks themselves, and by merging the instant—digital photography—with the time-consuming—embroidery—Choumali explores the relationship between the metaphorical and the physical, evoking moments of revelation, introspection and rediscovery. These contrast the real world and the world of the imagination. The long hours she spends sewing together the different layers and embroidering her motifs and drawings onto the fabrics have become moments of meditation; another ritual by which she is able to observe herself changing through this process, to examine her emotions and reactions and reshape them in a different, clearer way. “I explore my personal landscape facing new horizons,” she explains. “The notion of wandering to know oneself better and to finally meet oneself in the tranquility of the new day.”

Joana Choumali was born in 1974 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, where she lives and works. She studied graphic arts in Casablanca and initially worked as an art director in advertising before pursuing photography. Choumali’s early practice focused on documentary portraits. Her recent work builds upon the intimacy of her early portraits by incorporating embroidery and textiles directly onto her photographic images. Her work has been featured in exhibitions worldwide, including the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2021- 22); Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Marrakech (2019-20); Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town (2019); and the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle, Le Havre (2017). In 2017, Choumali was included in the Côte d’Ivoire Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. She was named the 2020 Robert Gardner Fellow in Photography by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University and was awarded residencies with Nirox Foundation, Johannesburg (2017) and the IFITRY Residency, Essaouira, Morocco (2016; 2015). Choumali is the first African winner of the prestigious Prix Pictet (2019), an annual honor for photography and sustainability, which she won for her series “Ça Va Aller.”

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