Ian Mwesiga’s Imagined Figures Hover on the Threshold of an Uncanny World

Ian Mwesigas Imagined Figures Hover on the Threshold of an | RetinaComics

“Tales of the Moonlight Boy” (2022), oil on canvas, 59 x 51 1/8 inches

In his metaphysical novel Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami offers a particularly heady description: “Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And hovering about there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.”

This unknown realm is where Ian Mwesiga sets his paintings. For his first institutional exhibition in the United States titled Beyond the Edge of the World, the Ugandan artist translates Murakami’s quiet uncanniness onto the canvas, envisioning subtly strange scenarios in which figures partake in curious acts. Mwesiga’s settings seem to hover on the thresholds between interior and exterior, ephemeral and non-, as autumn leaves, reflective pools of water, and cracked branches jagged at a break interrupt nature’s rhythms.

In “Tales of the Moonlight Boy,” a man sits on a bubblegum pink sheet draped over a balustrade with a body of water and forest bathed in blue visible the opening behind him. “Man with apple standing in a pool” is similarly surreal as the subject stands thigh-deep in water, a window on the building in front of him peering through to an unknown landscape. A Pepsi advertisement hangs overhead, evoking, like Murakami, consumerist culture and making the ubiquitous appear unusual. Mwesiga shares about his influences and visual language:

First, I should say that the process of making each painting is like an evolving thread of thoughts or ideas from a repository of memory or daily experiences. It is safe to say that I see paintings in everything and everywhere, and this forms an important part of my repository from which choices of how, where, what, and when are made.

Beyond the Edge of the World is on view at The FLAG Art Foundation through May 4. Find more of Mwesiga’s works on his site and Instagram.

 

a man in tight blue shorts stands thigh-deep in a pool with his back to the viewer. he holds a bitten apple in his right hand. there's a building and a Pepsi advertisement in the background

“Man with apple standing in a pool” (2023), oil on linen, 65 x 59 inches

a man stretches from the paved ground up three flights with one leg. he looks back at the other leg near a bight blue stair

“Man striding on a staircase” (2023), oil on canvas, 70 7/8 x 59 inches

a person lies on the ground in a foggy forest with a glass of brown liquid nearby and an orange bird

“Lying on a Bed of Mist, 2021), oil on canvas, 59 1/8 x 51 1/8 inches

 

a man holds a basketball in one hand and stands on a grassy hill. his reflection mirrors in a pond in the foreground

“Basketball Player IV” (2022), oil on canvas, 76 3/4 x 43 1/4 inches

a woman stands at a bus stop in front of a brick barrier and fence while a shadowy figure holding an umbrella walks in the background

“Lady in a blue dress at a bus stop” (2023), oil on canvas, 65 x 59 inches

 

a woman lies on a downed tree propped on a brick barrier with a bitten apple on the paved ground near her hand

“Tales of the moonlight girl” (2023), oil on canvas, 59 x 70 7/8 inches

a man in blue, black, and white swim trunks leans against a brick barrier to take off a sock in front of a pool of water with fall leaves floating on top

“Man and his shadow” (2023), oil on canvas, 70 7/8 x 59 inches

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