Cristiano Mangovo (Angolan, b. 1982)
Materiality and metaphoricity constitute a key couple to access the expressive essence of Cristiano Mangovo’s paintings. His large-scale figurative yet highly imaginative and dream-like works, which stand at a great distance from an accurate correspondence to the ordinary visual experience, convey an idiosyncratic expressivity that is simultaneously gestural and allegorical.
In a very distinctive manner, the Lisbon-based Angolan artist invests biographical experiences and a personal vivid spirituality into his visual creativity. His paintings, which are filled with metaphorical references to Angola’s political, social, economical and cultural realities, are equally characterised by a strong physicality with their raw brushstrokes, energetic lines and bold colours. The central surface of the canvas is freely composed of geometric patterns, organic motifs and expressive figures appearing in motion, action and interaction with each other. They stand out from an open, neutral, monochromatic and flat background of either black, red, light green or ochre-orange colour. Thus, the human-centred allegories, which constantly activate narratives and often identifiable meanings, are combined with the utter absence of perspective and the abolition of spatiality depiction. Together with the impetus and dynamic performative gesture, all this contributes to create some kind of unique Figurative Expressionism.
Recurrent details as the double-mouth-faces with one of them depicted inside a square evoke the issue of auto-censorship, which is particularly practiced within authoritarian regimes. Focusing on Angolan complex topics through a peculiar satirical lens and a sharp critical eye, Mangovo’s approach, with his inclusion of characters types or archetypal symbols and his attention to issues such as injustice, inequity and poverty, goes beyond local specificities to achieve a universal dimension. While making use, in his luxuriant compositions, of a polyphonic range of “Human, All Too Human” traits, the artist plays on all registers, from spectral to gushing, from comic to tragic, from supernatural to trivial, hieratic to grotesque or sacred to profane. Cristiano Mangovo is one of the most prolific among the painters of the Angolan post-war generation.