137ac – UMAN
And the Human Language of Colors
I paint. Often I get nostalgic about growing up. These memories express themselves mostly in the colors. They mix with the colors, movements and forms that surround me – seasonal changes in the foliage of upstate New York. Watching the birds migrating makes me wanting to be in that moment with them.
MY WORK IS NOT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL, NOR POLITICAL OR NARRATIVE. IT’S AN AUTOMATIC EXPRESSION
(137ac is a collective studio space. A place to share my work with other artists who share similar values and attitudes about painting. We come in and funnel ideas, frustration, hope and love into our work.)
Uman was born in East Africa and currently lives in New York.
“I started to draw at a young age onto everything I could find. I was full of imagination.
I enjoyed our family vacations all across East Africa, from Turkana to Nairobi to Mandera, a desert where my Grandmother lived.
I have fond memories of crossing the border with my parents into Tanzania.
LETTER TO UMAN
Los Angeles, May 1st 2015
Birds drop on your canvas the visual pattern of a melody. Each of them sings a different song, or a speech? Some of them thrive, others seem to shrink as if the end of their song had emptied their body. I don’t know why I see a breathing movement, maybe I’m bedeviled by questions I had as a country child listening to the birds and wishing to understand the language hidden in their throats. Perhaps I was at times mistaking birds for leaves, does it matter?
These paintings make me think of a scattered mosaic, a collection of particles that you have liberated from being stiff and geometrical. It’s an organic transformation that I see, light and movable, and moving. I can feel the birds flight, their voices. The space is a mid-space between sky and earth, as if your brush could breath the colors and make them weightless.
Really, the visual language you paint isn’t different from the birds’ songs: not the ‘natural’ inhuman scenery, rather the ‘natural’ personal cacophony of colors and forms that makes us part of the universe and the universe part of us. Rectangle triangles or drops of ovals have something of a skin, a softness that makes them vulnerable. I’m trying to read them separately from my memories and thoughts even if it’s clear that I might reach them only if I put my sensitivity at stake, being absolutely sure that it’s different from yours.
A painting? An odd combination of chance and freedom, space and time with the artist as an instrument of circumstances. I give you some John Cage:
He concludes that a note is “between points in a field of frequency or just a drawing in space … absence of theory…” Only NOTATION.
Imagination is the only parking place. Your paintings or drawings with one dominant image are harder to read. Ghosts from reality and art history enslave my mind, maybe yours too? I find myself in front of the Dark Woods, today watching a dragonlike image hissing at a cloud of darkness, tomorrow I might see something else. But looking at the tree embracing the dove with human hands I do know it’s a dream of tenderness, please don’t go, migration is hard. You are a bird from Africa as I am from Italy. Your painting has absorbed my words.
I’m not sure, this piece by William Carlos Williams could speak for both:
“I go back to people. They are the origin of every bit of life that can possibly inhabit any structure, house, poem or novel [or painting] of conceivable human interest. It doesn’t precisely come out of the tops of their heads like flowers but they represent, in themselves, the structure which art . . . Put it this way: If we don’t cling to the warmth which breathes into a house or a poem [or a painting] alike from human need — (The stink, you mean) — the whole matter has nothing to hold it together and becomes structurally weak so that it falls to pieces.”
It can be an elegant dancer resting on a couch, or a brown spot on a red square, the human language of colors.