© 2012 by Lili Bernard
It is difficult to find words that adequately describe the impact which Ayeola Moore’s artwork leaves upon me. The beauty, power and spirit which leap from this artist’s diverse body of work cannot be harnessed into words. To make the task of commenting on Ayeola’s artwork a little easier, I will focus on her paintings, because they speak to me strongly, though her artwork in other medium, such as drawing, sculpture and photography, are equally beautiful and meaningful.
There are so many aspects of life which Ayeola explores and commemorates in her paintings. Brush strokes pirouette passionately and compassionately across canvases in a celebration of love. Man becomes one with woman in her painting, Coming Together (2008), where two highly abstracted sculptural-like, contrastingly-colored, curvaceous figures, representing male and female, erotically merge, causing negative spaces to become positive spaces. We see a similar dynamic in Ayeola’s Human Tales (2008), where male and male, female and female, male and female intertwine in sensuous abstraction through flowing curved lines and complimentary colors. Contrastingly, though related, in a commemoration of paternal love, brush stokes cut across the canvas of Daddyhood (2011) in stark straight lines, forming an angular fortress around an abstracted father who embraces a child in the soft curve of his arm and abdomen which resemble a protective womb, suggesting that father becomes mother or vice versa.
Other paintings reflect the flip side of human emotion, the cries of global suffering, of man’s inhumanity to man and his attacks upon nature, such as in Rwanda 1994 (2009), where paint drips like blood in an abstraction of dismembered human bodies, entrails and decapitated heads. The theme of exposing the insides of the human organism is revisited in Innards (2008), where abstracted flesh is revealed like a dissected tree trunk and flows downward like a river heading somewhere.
Internal and personal turmoil stemming from disaster is visited in Everything Falls Apart (2008), where the subject, offset to the left, reacts fearfully to what he or she sees with open mouth and black holes for eyes through which trauma is absorbed and reflected in two agonizing heads within the skull of the subject whose throat resembles a vagina or a dissected tree trunk. The theme of multiple faces within one head upon a dissected body, is revisited in Encounters (2008), where two abstracted humans, standing apart, are seen from behind, the one on the left visibly female and dissected. Though facing away, the duo looks back at us with double-faced heads, while multicolored and simplified human figures in the background fill the negative spaces between and around the two subjects.
The merging of nature and humanity is thematically visited in Ayeola’s paintings. Trees become one with people, such as in Iroko (2007), in which the artist personifies the tropical African sacred tree. White space is contrasted by tones of orange in the sinewy trunk and blue hues in the branches, which become like water flowing from a river into the deep ocean, carving a feminine form across the canvas. In her Nature in Pain (2) (2008), suffering is evoked through subtlety and abstraction, where a reddened swollen circle, with a crevice within, could be a nipple, a naval or a knot in a tree or a volcano.
Thematically, in this mixture of nature and humanity, Ayeola’s paintings boldly proclaim the strength of womanhood. In her Whispers (2008), eyes, opened mouths, vaginas and hips, are displaced across the canvas in an exploration of sensuous femininity within an abstracted female figure, grounded firmly in the resemblance of a tree trunk.
Throughout Ayeola’s paintings, colors weave emotions of joy and pain in organic abstraction, through which appear on occasion ethereal faces or distorted primordial figures and ghoulish ghosts, such as in Self Demolition (2008) and Living Ghosts (2008),in which colors and composition reflect the darker forces of life.
Other paintings celebrate the joy, beauty and lightness of life evolving, such as in the sunlit Oxum (2005), where a waterfall, enveloped in forest-like greenery, flows from a golden burgeoning belly in which new life is implied in an orange sun-like circle, which faces the suggestion of a cowry shell within another womb, perhaps. In Oya/Iansã (2005), Ayeola uses red tones and circles within circles, to conceptually and very simply suggest the feminine power of the tornado-wielding Orisha, Oya. Other abstract compositions, also void of any semblance of the human figure, project emotion through webs of color, line and form, such as in her Dream Series (2007-2011).
Similarly, in her painting, Pilgrim (2012), an abstract arrangment of free-flowing forms in translucent layers of yellow, orange, and red, against blue wisps, elicits the feeling of spirits in motion, going somewhere, like a flame dancing in a breeze, across azure skies or waters. Upon discussing this work with the artist; I learned that the painting was born of the artist witnessing the pain-filled mass immigration of Haitian refugees, in early 2012, to her home of Brazil, where a thriving economy and deep ties to the sister-religion of Candomblé provide hope and solace to the displaced Haitians, who in hopes of making it to the “Promised Land,” have endured a dangerous and costly voyage, at the hands of exploitive “coyote” smugglers. Ayeola further shared that, in this painting, she used the colors yellow and red because they are symbolic of the orixa Déesse Kongo, who is a powerful spirit in the Haitian religion of Voudou, and upon whom Haitian refugees have invariably depended for generations. Like her painting Rwanda 1994 (2009), Ayeola Moore’s Pilgrim (2012), is a fine example of how the artist’s concerns for mankind’s struggle against catastrophe and inhumanity give rise to a most profound abstract expression on canvas, conceptually full of the spirit and emotion which embody the victims whom the work commemorates.
Whether they celebrate human love, eulogize those who have suffered, speak for nature or represent the spirits and the Orishas, Ayeola’s paintings, with a most natural sophistication, are thought-provoking, evoke an array of emotion and are simply beautiful.