Féerie des totems
by Amadou Seck

1986. India ink drawing on paper

Primarily known for his paintings, Senegalese artist Amadou Seck (b. 1950, Dakar) was also an accomplished draughtsman – a fact evidenced by this imaginative drawing of a ‘“wonderland’.” Admitted at fifteen to the École Nationale des Arts where he would train under Pierre Lods, Seck soon developed a personal style of flattened, geometric masks and creatures. As a whole, his oeuvre is rooted in mythology and signs typically associated with West African societies. As founder and director of an artist’s association in the 1970s, Seck enjoyed productive working relationships with the artists of his time. In fact, Seck dedicated this particular drawing to William Sagna – a fellow Senegalese painter, also known for his athletic and modeling talents – for their “Communion en vue d’une belle moisson, d’une belle oeuvre commune” (communion in preparation for a beautiful harvest, and a beautiful shared work).

This monochromatic works bears many hallmarks of Seck’s style and subject matter. A dozen distinct figures surround the massive central creature, whose contorted, winding body echoes no known organism, placing it wholly in the realm of the fantastic. Responding to the mysticism and supernatural forces behind ‘totems’ or fetish objects, the artist delves into the subconscious to manifest the abstract grouping of eyes, beaks, and limbs. Alternating between fine lines and blocks of black ink, the surface is simultaneously decorative and frenetic.

The shallow depth of plane pushes the flat creatures to the surface of the image, crowding each other even as they maintain their distance – never touching a neighbor. This intricate drawing also demonstrates Seck’s mastery over space and composition. His beasts draw us in to examine the patterns and lines that define their bodies, while simultaneously guiding our eyes outward, towards the edge of the paper. The bodies continue in every direction of the plane, leading the viewer’s gaze off the edge of the frame, alluding to the infinite quality of imagination or even insinuating the existence of a supernatural dimension that parallels our own.

Joseph L. Underwood

Assistant Professor of Art History,

Kent State University 2017