Working organically and subconsciously, Standing’s painting begins through an intuitive process of dye washes and mark-making. Drawing on elements of surrealism, abstraction and collage, as well as more figurative motifs, he allows himself to be guided by the painting itself – a method he describes as almost Shamanic. The result is a complex and often invisible building of layers and influences, like a manifestation of the artist’s own expression of self: as a white African born to a Jewish mother, his work reveals a rich and multifaceted perspective, informed by his homosexual identity and his extensive travels across the world (including China, Mexico, Philippines, Maldives).
Having also spent a decade spent living away – in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK where he is now based – the profound experience of Standing’s trip to Rwanda and Kenya reveals itself in the striking influence of place in these paintings. Embracing the qualities of the African landscape, Standing’s colour palette sees a shift to the blacks, ochres and earthy tones of savannah plains. His compositions also incorporate natural local materials such as soil, sand, water and charcoal, as well as found objects such as sequins and beads – a nod to the tribal histories that have shaped the countries’ pasts. Entitled The Whispering Tongues after the importance of folklore, storytelling and mystery, this body of work offers a visual counterpoint to those oral traditions that have shaped the cultural identity of Africa. Capturing the soul of the continent through a combination of personal homage and collective expression, these works are a bold and renewed consolidation of Standing’s identity as an artist – and an African.
“I began working on this body of work, The Whispering Tongues, in Kenya, in the land of the Masai, amongst warthogs and bougainvillea. It was my out of Africa experience, the return of the diaspora child to the motherland. It was profound, insightful, and inspiring. There was a freedom, spontaneity, and looseness to the paintings, a gorging of excitable impulses, a harking back to rudimentary mark-making, the marks of our ancestors in the cradle of civilisation. This body of work is a homage to my Africa, my home, as an African. If all the leaves on all the trees had tongues, hear them whisper as they divulge their secrets.” – Marc Standing