In what London, U.K-based October Gallery describes as Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga’s current series themed Mangbetu, the Congolese artist explores struggle of the Mangbetu people, an ethnic group of warrior extraction in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), whose culture, like most African countries, is facing modernisation challenges.
Currently ongoing, the show which is the artist’s first at the gallery and debut solo in the U.K, specifically references modern industry and the traditional culture of the Mangbetu, bringing their vibrant fabrics, symbolic objects and daily rituals into confrontation with the digital imagery of modern day. The gallery views his paintings as possessing a monumental quality that is both heroic and elegiac, with a striking and sophisticated interplay of intensity and emptiness, two and three dimensions, and Congolese pattern painted as European drapery.
The DRC is the world’s largest exporter of coltan, a raw material used in computer chips and mobile phones.
October Gallery notes that Ilunga is one of the most exciting young artists working in Africa today. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1991, he trained at the Kinshasa Academy of Arts and has founded the dynamic Congolese art collective ‘M’Pongo’, representative of the creative vibrancy to be found in modern Kinshasa.
Ilunga’s work has been exhibited across Africa, notably at Dak’Art; Biennale OFF Senegal in 2014, and made its London debut at the Saatchi Gallery’s Panagaea II in 2015. The enormous excitement around the 24-year-old artist at London’s 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in 2015 and at New York’s Armory Show in 2016 was compounded by an article in the FT’s How to Spend It, which employed his work ‘Lost’ to represent The Best of New York Armory 2016.
Born in 1991, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Lives and works in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga graduated from the Institute of Fine Art, Kinshasa in 2009. He then joined the Academy of Fine Arts, Kinshasa but soon sought emancipation from the Academy in establishing the studio "M'Pongo", a collective of young artists in Kinshasa looking for a creative and individual style. At the same time he took part in several exhibitions in the DRC and abroad, including an exhibition at the French Institute Gallery, Brazzaville, Congo, and Dak'Art OFF, Dak'Art: The Biennale of Contemporary African Art, Senegal, 2014. Kamuanga draws from the structural complexity of his hometown and revisits the traditional culture of the Mangbetu people. Referencing different forms of advertising and photography as well as traditional aesthetics, his paintings are an amalgam of complementary pop cultural forms, including music, fashion and dance. They offer an intelligent approach to popular culture by exposing the anxieties and joys of his contemporaries. He has exhibited most recently at Saatchi Gallery, London as part of Pangaea II.