Since the late 1950s, Hervé Télémaque has created an expansive body of work with a unique and playful visual vocabulary, featuring abstract gestures, cartoon-like imagery, and mixed media compositions. Through paintings, drawings, collages, objects and assemblages, he brings together striking combinations of historical and literary references with those of consumer and popular culture. Incorporating images and experiences from his daily life, the artist’s extensive body of work consistently draws connections between the realms of interior consciousness, social experience and the complex relationships between image and language.
Born in 1937 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Télémaque left for New York in 1957 entering an art scene dominated by Abstract Expressionism. In 1961, he moved permanently to Paris, associating with the Surrealists and later co-founding the Narrative Figuration movement in France with art critic Gérald Gassiot-Talabot and artist Bernard Rancillac. A reaction against the dominant trend towards Abstract art and the developing movement of Pop art in North America, Télémaque’s Narrative Figuration often results in works with a Pop sensibility that incorporate consumer objects and signs. The artist then inflects these images with an astute criticality, producing work in dialogue with current events, such as the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, US intervention in the Dominican Republic, and contemporary French politics.
A vehement commitment to highlighting the histories and contemporary resonances of racism, imperialism and colonialism remains a constant throughout his career, with works that intimate the insidious ways that these structures continue to permeate our everyday lives. In later works, Télémaque refers more directly to his Haitian heritage and experience as part of the Caribbean diaspora.
This exhibition is Télémaque’s first institutional show in the UK. It brings together works made from the late 1950s until the present day, highlighting the enduring themes of the artist’s work through his multi-faceted practice. Rather than taking a chronological approach, A Hopscotch of the Mind proposes a non-linear exploration of Télémaque’s visual vocabulary, encouraging viewers to jump between media and periods, forming their own associations between the disparate fragments of his idiosyncratic narration.
Hervé Télémaque: A Hopscotch of the Mind (Installation view, 7 October 2021 – 30 January 2022), Photo: Hugo Glendinning