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The TIWANI CONTEMPORARY gallery in London (UK) is organizing a group show entitled YOUR PRESENCE DOES NOT ESCAPE ME, from May 10 to June 2023, featuring works by Charmaine Watkiss (UK), Delita Martin (USA) and Tessa Mars (Haiti).

Figurative painter Tessa Mars depicts mythologies of her own invention to explore Haitian identity. Representations of a female alter ego named Tessalines, inspired by Haitian revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines (1758-1806, Haiti's first head of state), have been the main subject of her work for many years. In this new body of work, Mars has "killed" Tessalines and reflects on the consequences of his "death", as well as on his encounters with other key figures in his own life, in particular his grandmother, Ayida. The starting point for the body of work is the powerful painting "Ayida's Daughter", which explores the artist's complex relationship with her grandmother and the country's folk and spiritual traditions. In the Haitian Vodou pantheon, Ayida is the name of the important spirit of the "rainbow serpent", and the central figure in the painting also represents the connection to the land and to ancestors in time and space, a particular concern for the artist following her move to Europe and geographical separation from her family.

These paintings speak of the strength of family ties, of family conflict and reconciliation, of accepting the fullness of our loved ones while acknowledging generational patterns and how they repeat themselves. Tendrils and serpentine roots are a motif in the series, as are islands, oceans and the in-between spaces where sea and shore meet. In his new works, swamps, places where the earth is permanently saturated with water, are ambiguously and confusingly represented by Mars', so that what is one and what is the other is not immediately obvious to the viewer, but left for him to decipher. Referring to the rising sea levels induced by the climate emergency in the Caribbean, particularly in Haiti, Mars symbolically poses the following question: faced with the advancing water, are the island and its inhabitants ready, literally and figuratively, to swim together against the rising tide?

Tessa Mars, To Stitch, Pull and Tangle, 2023. Acrylic on canvas, 130 x 100cm.

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