Ms. V held her very first solo art show at the Fondation H – Antananarivo on Thursday November 11th and runs through November 26th. Fresh from placing second in the 2021 Paritana art contest, the artist’s first solo show takes us on a journey of growth and resilience drawn from her own life experience. Mixing collage techniques and old photographs with digital painting, her work explores her evolution from rebellious teen to embodied wise woman.
The nine pieces are printed on imposing 120 x 72 cm canvases, contrasting with the white brightly lit walls. Visitors are welcomed by a guide and walk along the different artworks while given insights into each one. Each canvas is hung to a wall, allowing visitors to follow the artist’s tribulations until the present day.
Ms. V has no formal artistic education but, as far as she remembers, she always liked to create with her hands. As a child, she was particularly fond of collages, a technique that inspired most of her work. As she grew older, she stopped creating collages and it was not until the pandemic, when her routine was upended and she found herself with free time, that she actively resumed making art. Her father collected antique photographs of Malagasy subjects, which she drew inspiration from all of her pieces.
While the show’s title "CMYK" routinely refers to digital painting’s color model (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key), Ms. V chose this title as a representation of the four seasons of her life: Choices, Motherhood, Youth, and Knowledge. In each season, Ms. V remembers there is always hope at the end of the tunnel; no matter how tough life gets, seasons pass, and hope gets us through difficult times.
Ms V’s describes her creative process as collage but with virtual scissors. Using a tablet, old black and white photographs morph into colorful pop art, connecting the public with long forgotten snapshots of another era. Most subjects in these photographs are Malagasy women posing, maybe unwillingly, for foreign photographers. If it’s impossible to know who these women were and the conditions in which these pictures were taken, Ms. V wants to reclaim these women’s identities, taking back control of the story. Using her creative process, she transforms these pictures of colonized women into powerful symbols of rebirth, resilience, and growth.
“CMYK” broaches many topics, from personal growth to grief or motherhood. But weaving together the heart of the series is mental health. Western countries have started to acknowledge the impact of mental health on society, but in Madagascar, mental health still remains a taboo. Asking for help or admitting to shortcomings are widely frowned upon, even in a time where Covid has depleted many people of a stable income or a place to live. In this context, Ms. V doesn’t shy away from depicting her own mental health journey. Art has long been a therapeutic tool and this is where Ms. V asserts herself as a true artist: exposing her own vulnerability and using her art to grow, heal, and bring hope to her audience and herself.
In a society where artistic pursuits are not deemed career-worthy, Ms. V’s meteoric rise to the forefront of the Malagasy art scene brings hope to young struggling local artists. Even though the international art world is finally embracing African talent, many artists cannot afford to pursue their craft for lack of material and societal support. Ms. V’s success is thus a breath of fresh air and a sign of hope for Malagasy artists, who cruelly lack the kind of support their Western counterparts have benefitted from.
Through her colorful and large sized canvases, Ms. V’s message resonates on many levels: the story of a young woman growing to be herself and find her own voice in adversity, never losing hope. Her story echoes that of a - fairly young - country struggling to find its own path, and seemingly unable to outgrow its immature self.
While the country faces a deeply uncertain future, in our opinion, Ms. V’s future looks as bright as her artwork. Indeed, with this cathartic series, Ms. V truly found herself and we’re glad we found her.
“CMYK” runs through November 26th at the Fondation H, located in the zone Galaxy, Cube D, ground floor. Free entrance. Visit https://www.paritana.com for more information.
Assya Amarsy is a Franco-Malagasy freelance writer. A Madagascar-grown zanatany, she previously worked in the audit industry both in Paris and New York, and is currently located in Antananarivo.