A Unique Voice And A Platform For Unique Art
The exhibition, named ‘The Whispering tongues’, marks something of a personal homecoming for Marc Oudersma, a celebration of his indigenous heritage and of the African Diaspora that have deeply influenced his identity. His own life and work have been profoundly influenced by the people of his adopted homeland, and the effect is clear in the display of his eclectic approach to style and colour. The themes of storytelling, folkloric tale and folk culture have never before been captured by the galleries of Grove Square, and the impact of these stories and colours have not just captured the imagination of his ever-growing clientele, but the hearts of Grove Square’s visitors.
The exhibition, which includes fifteen pieces from four different artists, highlights some of the major influences on Oudersma’s work. Three of these are self-portraits, and each one speaks to their own individual characters and styles. In his portrait of a merchant from Nigeria, titled Arawa, the merchant’s face is completely covered in a deep green skin coloured hat, topped with a large bowler hat of an identical design. On the right arm is a thick leather glove, and a coin ring sits on top of it. Another piece, called Mebra, is a solo exhibition of three-dimensional works created from charcoal, ink and watercolor, which were created during a period of intense work in the solo studio of Christopher Kieling.
The other major theme running through the solo exhibition is the rich oral tradition of Kenyan oral tradition, which Oudersma describes as “a rich tapestry of story and song” which has remained virtually unchanged throughout many years. In his meditation on the relationship between language and culture, he discusses how language can limit one’s experience: “Just hearing words in another language destroys the sensory experience of being there.” In a similar vein, Oudersma also notes the importance of listening to traditional songs, which have survived both the written and spoken word throughout generations. This makes the many pieces from the contemporary art gallery of Grove Square Galleries more relevant than ever.
Themes woven through both Oudersma’s solo and joint exhibitions include the use of repetition, cross-cultural contact and community engagement. These themes are present throughout the various projects he conducted between 1998 and 2021, which helped him to develop a body of work centred on community development and participatory research. These included project areas such as youth care and advocacy, food security, rural development and gender issues. Similarly, the blending of digital innovation and physical exhibitions, such as those featured in Grove Square Galleries and elsewhere, helps to display the intricacies of digital technology.
In some cases, Oudersma has sought to bring together people from different generations and communities. For example, in a cross-cultural project organised in partnership with the United Nations, he travelled to Pakistan, Nigeria and Cuba, which are predominantly Muslim, and researched the life of street children. The resulting research, he reveals, was a documentary detailing the lives of young men and women in the streets, and the relationship between poverty and crime. It is this type of cross-cultural collaboration that offers opportunities for Oudersma to engage with established collectors and meet new ones. These engagements allow him to demonstrate his ability to think in ways that go beyond traditional Galleria-type Galleries.
Furthermore, both Oudersma and his artistic partner, artist Christofer Kieling, offer their solo and joint artistic styles and influences through their various projects. Oudersma’s artwork can be found in the solo exhibition Space, created for an installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art London, while Kieling’s most recent solo exhibition was entitled Rooms: An Interview with Contemporary Artists, and he will continue to display work at the Solo Art Show in London until next year. Kieling’s work will be featured at the forthcoming London Biennial against the background of heightened security following the terror attacks on London. With a strong desire to contribute towards the promotion of social change and environmental responsibility through his solo and collaborative efforts, Oudersma will continue to work towards a vision of a world where the human experience is more balanced and truly democratic.