April 8, 2020
Henni Alftan, Matt Hilvers, Ruth Ige, Andrew Sim, published by Karma, New York, 2019.
When I first met Ruth Ige, I recognized a quietude we both shared—an introversion that strikes me as less of a personality trait and more of a discrete caution that one carries with them into the world. I recognize this same sentiment in her work. Her paintings oscillate between abstraction and figuration, at times concealing forms within the pictorial frame and at others revealing them. Ige enshrines her figures in mystery. She views this as a form of empowerment, one that allows for a portrayal of blackness that is “enigmatic and not expected.” Ige is interested in creating new narrative forms of blackness. Central to her practice is a politics of representation and absence that gestures toward the historical omission of blackness from Western art canons. For The Poetry of Time (all works 2019), Ige develops the cast of characters that she has been meticulously crafting over the past three years. Some of these works, such as The Poet and Treasure, resemble traditional portraits, character studies of figures in repose. Others, like ‘The two strangers on the hill’ and ‘Amongst the wind and waves’ catch their figures in active moments, perhaps imaginable as scenes cut from celluloid. Her extension of cast is thus a continuation of her project in worldbuilding. What is most profound in her work is that she doesn’t merely employ the codes of abstraction, she creates a visual language that paints beyond it too. It is distinctly future-oriented, while simultaneously containing both past and present. It is both a quiet gesture and a cacophony of worlds.