Brighton Festival 2019Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

Review: Iron Men & Current Affairs: 'the artists reference and welcome us into their home countries while delivering international environmental messages'

Brighton Festival Press Intern, Sofia Christodoulou shares her thoughts on Serge Attukwei Clottey’s exhibition Current Affairs and Fototala King Massassy’s photographic exhibition Iron Men both currently exhibiting as part of Brighton Festival until the end of May.

Ghanaian Serge Attukwei Clottey and Malian photographer Fototala King Massassy are currently exhibiting their work in local galleries, Fabrica Gallery and Phoenix Gallery as part of Brighton Festival. The theme of ‘community’ is prevalent in both exhibitions; however, the artists have used the spaces in contrasting ways.

Current Affairs is a wholly interactive show, upon arriving I was encouraged to walk on, touch and take photographs of the work; a tapestry made from re-purposed jerry cans. These cans, some of which are placed around the exhibition, have been imported into Ghana from Europe and Asia often carrying oil and are then re-purposed to carry water by those struggling due to the country’s water shortage. Through this work, the artist highlights the environmental impact the use of plastic has within the community in Ghana.

The huge, bright yellow work is striking and contrasts with the wooden church interior of Fabrica. Serge uses his artwork to comment on the global issue of plastic waste and the sheer volume of material used in the jerry can tapestry perfectly captures this idea as it spans almost the entire gallery floor. To add to the interactive nature of the show, there is a table full of information about the artist and his exhibition, as well as a book intended for visitor input asking questions such as “How would you feel if there were no fish left in the ocean?” which has provoked some thoughtful answers.

On the other hand, Phoenix Gallery have adopted a ‘white cube’ approach to display the works of Iron Men.

Self-taught photographer King Massassy has used metal workers from Malian capital city Bamako as the subjects of his collection. The workers have been strikingly photographed in black and white which allows the sparks and smoke of their work to really stand out against dark backdrops with each photograph intimately focusing on an individual worker face on. 

Accompanying the photographers are short pieces of text comprising of Malian sayings, such as ‘Be quiet as the grandson of the donut seller’ and ‘If the bear was a sign of wisdom, the goat would be banned from consumption’ which give visitors a glimpse of the day-to-day culture of Bamako. King views the photographs as a portal into the soul of Malian people, allowing the visitors to interact with the subjects just by looking.

King comments that the workers in his photographs excel in the art of recycling metal, much like Serge does with plastic in his jerry can tapestries, which highlights the importance of the environment in the two artist’s works. 

In both exhibitions the artists reference and welcome us into their home countries while delivering international environmental messages.