Parables of Nana by Genesis Tramaine at Almine Rech
That evening when I entered Almine Rech – all I knew was that there is a new exhibition; I knew nothing about the artist or her work, I actually didn’t even know if it was her or his work, all I cared about was just taking pictures for the Purple Fashion Magazine. I was fairly annoyed actually: there was a lot of construction work going on and I had to find different (from my usual) way to get into the gallery. In contrary, I also remember leaving the exhibition with pictures, with happiness in my heart and this idea in my brain - I want to write a very professional review about this powerful work of this beautiful woman.
(Genesis Tramaine, Bearer of Good News, 2020)
It took me more than 2 months to do this writing. At some point I thought that I won’t even do it, and then my thoughts shifted again, and my whole idea about how this reflective piece should be written changed too and now I am sitting here and writing this piece which is surprisingly really meaningful to me and I want it to be raw rather than ‘professional’.
I remember asking Genesis to pose next to one of her paintings and she asked me (with this beautiful smile on her face) where should she stand and what should be done whilst she pose, and I just said ‘you pick, you decide’, and she was doing so great, and I remember her saying thank you to me and I said thank you to her, and we hugged, and she was just so friendly, and open. We talked for a bit – I congratulated her on her solo exhibition, and I told her that I like her paintings, and then she said this one thing that stuck with me, she said something like ‘you know, I am in this small body, but I am a big woman, I am big, there is so much in me, and these paintings reflect that’, and she was moving her hands so expressively, and I was fascinated with her honesty and welcoming attitude, and it simply made me really happy; this conversation with her was really short, but it was beautiful.
After a while I started to read about her and watched some videos that told me more about her ideals and beliefs: what I found was God, so much of it.
(Genesis Tramaine, Saint Jabez, 2020)
As Halima Taha says exhibition ‘Parables of Nana’ (where I actually discovered Genesis) ‘explores the universal identity of the soul though the mortal lens of a spiritual being who navigates the world as a servant of God and happens to be a Black woman, a daughter, a grand-daughter, a sister, a cousin, a friend, an auntie, and a Queer wife. Tramaine invites audiences to contemplate themselves in the presence of Divine spirit through the human face’.
There is also another very important paragraph in the public release of the exhibition which states that ‘Artists like Genesis Tramaine are often characterized as ‘outsider’, ‘visionary’ or ‘self-taught’ because of their examination of idiosyncratic realities that are imbued with imagination and visual power that encapsulates aesthetic criteria defined by the art historical canon. Her work brings together disparate traditions, practices and styles to create a visual collage of lines, shapes, patterns, brushstrokes, portraits and colorful iconography that examines how to restore ‘wholeness’ through faith.’
(Genesis Tramaine, Don’t be Shy, 2020)
However, all I saw at the very beginning of looking was reminiscent of Jean Michel Basquiat, but then with the continuous looking into, my personal interpretation was followed by deep reflective comprehension: I was seeing a woman who is de-tangling what is tangled, uncovering what is hidden, and finally re-writing what is written. I saw a really fresh explanation of what does that mean to have a grandmother, to be Christian, to be black, to be a queer-woman in a church, to be a human and share this universal human-experience which is full of colour, what does that mean to pray, what does that mean to "sit down at the table and let me learn you something," and never teach.
(Genesis Tramaine, Witnessing Grace, 2020)
I think about God and how it does not exist for me, but how it exists for her: how there are always angels around her and how she feels blessed and loved and protected, how she goes to church and feels happiness, how she paints to show people the divinity and faith. I also think about going to church 6 years ago, I was all alone in Vilnius and I strongly knew that I am not a Christian (or believer in God overall). I think about going to church 2 years ago when I was in Faro, and crying so incredibly hard in there - my knowledge of not being a believer in God was even stronger. I still do not believe in God and definitely am not a Christian, but I think about this now, because of the person I love, or people I used to/still love who happen to be Christians or believers - how incredibly strange it is to write all of this down, while actually writing about art?
(Genesis Tramaine, Blood Brother's, 2020; Joy Comes In The Morning, 2020)
For me, paintings of Genesis Tramaine encapsulate powerful force which flows because of the colour, it moves (itself/others) because of the freedom it possesses, it enters hearts because of the stories it tells and sinks into the minds because of the memories it brings back.
I am looking forward to seeing more of her work – here in London or anywhere else in the world, because it is worth traveling overseas to see it.