He is, beside Temandrota (Razafimandimby Randriahasandratra), one of the cornerstones of the modern art scene, forming the nucleus of the current generation of Malagasy visual artists called on as role models for the next generations.
Antonio Paneque Brizuela
It is life, especially modern life, that visual artist Tahina Rakotoarivony reflects in his work. Of course, he also reflects the infinite ecological variety found on this small piece of the world called Madagascar.
His work focuses on the characteristics of human life on the largest island in Africa, which is covered with forests, beaches, reefs and teems with unique species of wildlife. He exalts them in his work using techniques such as collage.
It is this vital pulse in his work that distinguishes the artist’s images, where he captures the wildlife that is some of the most varied and unique on the planet.
Rakotoarivony also integrates found objects into his work, including materials from the internet, sounds from the street, newspaper articles and recycled paper. By constantly changing his medium, he varies the proportions and visual composition according to his message, so that his works can be seen to be conceptual critiques of phenomena like “the absurdity of contemporary morality”.
“Thanks to his early artistic curiosity and his persistent preoccupation [with the work] (…), his constantly evolving creativity has truly galvanised the Malagasy art scene,” claims the Spanish critic Javier Mantecón.
A promoter of collective shows and one of the few Malagasy artists to exhibit internationally, due to the prohibitive cost of external flights for most of his compatriots, Rakotoarivony nevertheless practices new techniques, with new materials and themes that mark the differences between each of his exhibitions.
“I use ‘combining painting’ as a launch pad,” he says, “because it allows me to go a separate way and present the information I’ve received in my own style. For me, it is more like a way of being than a concern. I consider myself an artist of the present.
“Mixing up the information I receive, I try to create my own discourse,” he adds, “and this opinion is what provokes the public’s response. Since the present is so diverse and takes so many forms, I can also make it.”
On this road towards contemporary art, the painter is helped in his search by his role as director of the iS’ART Galerie, based in the capital, the only alternative cultural centre in the country.
There, the young creative is “like a sort of godfather of the Malagasy arts”, according to the African publication of contemporary art, afribuki.
For Rakotoarivony, the gallery is “a test laboratory where I can get close to other disciplines, like photography and video art, that I don’t normally work in.
“There are not many artists in Madagascar, nor much circulation of ideas, which is why we adapt our work around a concrete theme for the collective exhibitions; we learn from one another.”
But, although it is said that Rakotoarivony’s work is characterised by “a lack of labels”, what is new at a national level comes into his sphere via his young, new colleagues.
Thus, in Mantecón’s words, “his friendly character, his carefree laugh and his forgetful personality encourage all young people to be open to his candour, and with this attitude they learn, train, refine their ideas and, of course, have fun.”
The artist says that he himself also drank at other important sources of inspiration, like the work of Richard Razafindrakoto, the leading figure on the 1980s art scene, who took Rakotoarivony under his wing when he was 16 years old, even though in the artist’s own estimation he started somewhat late. (PL)
(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Prensa Latina