Papa Ibra Tall was a Senegalese artist, influenced by Negritude and French modernism. Papa Ibra Tall is the one. I love his lines, his colors, his overall aesthetic. Tall’s work is refreshingly non-derivative.
If Tom Robbins’ books were to be illustrated, Tall could do them. His paintings explore the connection and interplay between spaces and shapes, the proportion, the balance, the movement across the page, the overall experience as it interacts with the supreme detail of his pieces. That’s how Robbins’ writing is. Both are unconventional, both create art that involves or references many of the senses.
I love lines and appreciate linearity, and Papa Ibra Tall’s lines are one of a kind. This pseudo-collage, super luxurious feel of his images, bodies them up and saturates them. I think I’ve gushed publicly about Egon Schiele (gasp x 1000, so beautiful*), and I’m starting to feel this way about Tall. However, where Schiele’s pieces are intensely physical, Tall’s paintings feel almost otherworldly. Unlike Schiele, the boundaries of Tall’s lines and planes are precise, and his colors saturated. Tall’s use of dots and other geometric details to build a multi-layered picture is also unique. The effect on the page is also very different; Schiele’s work is involved, convoluted, very much about the internal monologue of whoever he’s depicting. There’ve a short story feel about them. Tall’s paintings convey a different narrative. His paintings are never about just one person, even if there’s only one person in the picture, because his paintings are about his subjects in relation to other environmental factors. Tall’s images tell a myth, a legend, an epic. The tonalities and the imagery remind me of an illustrated collection of fairytales that I read as a child.
* It ought to be noted that Schiele has some tendencies toward exploitation/voyeurism in his portraits of women. Someone who is hyper-physical, as Schiele is (just look at his treatment of the human form for proof) is hyper-physical in many ways. I’m not excusing it, but instead saying that it might be the flip side of a coin.
Laissez les bon temps rouler,