Foreign Agent presents Superlife, Maurice Mboa’s first solo show in Switzerland since 2017. Superlife showcases the artist’s exploration of organic life: a celebration of a supernatural lifeforce which exceeds the human, the animal and the vegetal and survives in all living beings beyond the body and after death, an enigmatic and charismatic substance carried through time and space. Most of the works presented here were made by the artist after a recent life-changing collapse in 2020 which required open-heart surgery, an operation during which he almost died and floated out of his body: a borderline experience which opened the artist’s eyes to the finitude of the body and the eternal life of the soul.
The world of Superlife is populated by radical creatures as archaic as they are futuristic. These supreme beings are portrayed with signature streaked metallic faces, a kind of sacred geometry,- which index an archetypical individual faceprint – or rather a “soulprint” specific to the artist’s cosmogony. They pose in their primeval habitat reminiscent of a vibrant primordial forest full of dense mysterious foliage, faceless but definitely watching us – even looking into us – often with a curious head tilt as if perplexed by our presence or attempting to seduce us, animated by intimated fluid vibrations. Their hands are often bizarrely twisted – presenting? offering? receiving? – gesturing as if they were trying to tell us something in an otherworldly sign language, beckoning us into their alien microcosmos. Every detail seems to signify something we can’t fully comprehend, compounding the ontological singularity and otherness of these mysterious figures – their superhuman quality.
The aesthetic magic of Superlife is released through the precarious balance and interplay of dynamic elements, as well as the precious intricate textural work: the cold metallic surface is offset by the warmth of gold-painted leaves and delicate colorful geometric patterns, the still black nakedness of the necks and bodies or hands contrast with heavily textured coiffed hair alive with reptilian sensations, the harsh robotics of the streaked faces are softened by hundreds of small hypnotic aquatic circles which seem to bring vital oxygen to the figures. In daylight, rays of light suddenly break out from within the complex nest of carvings like tiny lightnings, each one seemingly bringing us closer yet further to the mysteries of Superlife.
Maurice Mboa’s powerful works are painted and engraved on thin metal sheets imported from Africa. Metal is essential to the mythical dimension of Superlife defined by its heterogenous and compounded timelessness. Metal has both archaic as well as futuristic connotations: the first African blacksmiths appeared around 1500 BC and were traditionally feared and respected for their powers; metal is also associated with futurism, robots, space travel, etc. In the world of Maurice Mboa, metal and minerals are precious – which is also why gold features so much in his work. They are filled with energy: an underground form of concentrated organic life, an extension of the trees and forests above.