Christopher Ankeli Salvage II at Chuck Gallery

On entering Chuck gallery, you are at an instant greeted by a trove of colour, sensation, a glimpse into the mind of an artist capturing the essence and breathing beats of a world so distant to where we enter. Walking along in the cold, but bright day in Manchester, a pandora’s box of life greets you.

Ankeli has clearly been on a journey, a journey so evident when we first saw and purchased paintings by him previously. We could see his beginnings as an artist and a suggestion to what the language and journey he was to take. There are themes evident throughout the exhibition, processes in thought with regards the language he wishes to use, what he is trying to convey, but he has a style definitive to him. Having read such a lovely review by the poet Peter Kalu, and I really do see what he is saying, see link for review, I was hesitant to continue with a review having never visited Ankeli’s  home country, and to write a review that could encapsulate work so different to mine own.  But they speak, transcend continents, and I continue to write as an artist with regards what I saw that visit.

You have a view of the artist. The exhibition includes painting, acrylic, watercolour and collage. He comes across as thoughtful, insightful, possibly quiet, proud, applies symbols and careful composition, and you get a feeling these have taken time to compose, to contemplate and lace with thoughtful meaning. He has found a language to convey and apply symbolism as commentary of African heritage, culture, society and his experiences. As Kalu says, it is subtle, not overtly political, but commentary on human nature, dignity, society, survival, emotion, and they are full of language, meaning and vibrancy.

Included are two of his earlier works, which I was yet again drawn to. ‘Labour of Love I & II’. What struck me was the careful reflection with regards the women, the first holding her child, providing protection in this often difficult world, and he captures the devotion, struggle and survival. The second encapsulates her resolve to survive, the tenseness but strength of resolve. And it is interesting yet again to see the journey from these early drawings, sketches, and they are small in comparison to other pieces in the exhibition, as juxtaposed/situated alongside these stands ‘Hope Rising’. A flaming strong woman reaching up to kiss the sky, a lovely composition it truly is, encapsulating colour, strength, resolve, beauty. These convey the thought, compassion so evident in each painting by Ankeli. Some are elusive, figures aren’t always apparent, possibly a reflection on the way he translates his thoughts on canvas, you have to look to see the subtle conversation. You want to know the man, where is he? … Well, he is everywhere, the colour and subtleties, and then you see ‘Homestead’, ‘View from my Window’, sights and sounds of his home captured by his recent watercolours and paintings, a glimpse to this other world. What strikes me is also is the tangibility with regards his collage style pieces, the materiality he has applied by thoughtful application of found items to these, that link to persons not met, items not touched, but here they are. It is that glimpse, that tangibility that draws you in, glimpse of the world of Ankeli, Africa, colour, texture, breathing heart of it. And it is modern and refreshing.

And then you look again, your eyes transfixed by sensory exhaustion sometimes, and here he is, the one self-portrait. And it is how you might imagine/expect it to be. A silhouette, not brandishing exposure but quiet, thoughtful, a mere suggestion of him, but he is all around, his thoughts surround the room, colour, thought, understanding, compassion for his homeland. You are on his journey, and it is a lovely sight to see.

Salvage II is on at Chuck Gallery

for details see