Vigo Gallery

Zak Ové - selected DP works

This series of wall based knitted collages is an extension of his installation in the Grand Court of the British Museum in 2015 where a 'Moko Jumbies' head was fashioned from hand stitched doilies. Key figures in Trinidadian carnival since the beginning of the 20th Century, the Moko Jumbies are guardian sentinels and godlike seekers looking out for danger, mapping out the surroundings. In March last year, Ové’s 'Moko Jumbies' were re-installed in the British Museum’s Africa Galleries (room 25), the work forms part of their permanent collection and is the first major work acquired from a Caribbean artist.

The DP paintings work for Ové as an African grid system of mainly concentric oscillating openwork layered circles; a less defined, less rigid, emancipated, less austere, and more creative version of the traditional grid. The individual doilies are often circular emanating from a central point akin to the idea of a polar coordinate system, in which a distance from the reference point and an angle from a reference direction determine each point on a plane. The Yoruba tribe of Nigeria of which ancestry many Trinidadians can lay claim believed in the concept of time travel and this features heavily in Ove’s work, most notably in his installation at Glasstress at the Venice Biennale in 2014 of his time machine, a series of concentric oscillating clocks. The notion of travelling along time lines linking ancient ancestry to modern carnival and play appeals very much to the artist’s sensibility in this body of work. 

Ové works between sculpture, film, painting and photography, often collaging the various elements using found, cast and recovered materials. Interested in reinterpreting lost culture and mythology using modern and antique materials, he pays tribute to both spiritual and artistic African and Trinidadian identities which have been given new meanings through Trinidadian carnival and the cross cultural dispersion of ideas.

Of continual interest is the emancipation of personal existence through incarnation with an ‘other self’, showing us the power of play to free an individual from the contained experience of one’s identity. The creation of Doilies generally by older women is one such creative outlet utilized on a cultural scale by Trinidadians. Thought of by him as an expression of individuality but linked by a commonality Doily making is a hobby for many gifted amateurs who use them decoratively in the home and which were a sign from the fifties onwards of upwards social mobility. In addition to their decorative and creative craft based function doilies also act to protect furnishings from damage linking to the Moko Jumbie role as protector.

Growing up with a Trinidadian father and Irish mother and living sporadically between the Trinidad and London, Doilies have an nostalgic trigger for Ové. Notably with this series he too enjoys the power of play being liberated to experiment with colour and form in a wall based format, hereto not within his sculptural vocabulary.