Metaphore Unveils the Artistry in Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s ‘Exposures’

In the captivating realm of Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s ‘Exposures,’ the intersection of race, sexuality, and artistry converges to create a visual symphony that transcends the ordinary. Sepuya’s lens, an instrument of profound introspection, delves into the very fabric of human connections, challenging our perceptions and inviting contemplation.

As Metaphore navigates through this survey of Sepuya’s recent work at Nottingham Contemporary, the intrinsic fusion of content and composition emerges as a hallmark of his artistic journey. Sepuya’s lens becomes a storyteller, unraveling narratives that stretch back two decades, exploring the realms of queer bodies, sexuality, and the echoes of colonial history.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Daylight Studio Model Study (0X5A2323), 2022, archival pigment print (Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Paris)

Friendship, authenticity, and the organic unfoldment of moments define Sepuya’s process. Each image encapsulates a personal connection, a friend or a friend of a friend, capturing the essence of genuine relationships. Sepuya’s lens isn’t wielded at strangers or models; it’s an extension of camaraderie and shared experiences, creating an intimacy that resonates through each frame.

The images, simultaneously bold and nuanced, draw the viewer into a dialogue with the subjects. Whether it’s the silhouette of a male body, the interplay of contrasting skin tones, or the obscured face behind the camera, Sepuya orchestrates a visual dance that challenges preconceptions and sparks introspection.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Daylight Studio (DSCF0043), 2021, archival pigment print (Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Paris

In this exploration, Sepuya’s studio transforms into a realm where the seasons dictate the visual narrative. A frozen-cold studio births one kind of picture, while the warmth of spring fosters another. This dynamic relationship with time and space infuses his work with a temporal richness, reflecting the ebb and flow of creative expression.

Objects from diverse eras, from 13th-century references to contemporary elements, become characters in Sepuya’s visual tapestry. The postmodern approach to these objects, their coexistence in a shared space, opens dialogues about history, queerness, and the complexities of representation.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Dark Room Studio Mirror (0X5A3797), 2022, archival pigment print. (Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Paris)

‘Exposures,’ spanning from 2017 to 2022, encapsulates a liberating and relaxed sexuality reminiscent of Robert Mapplethorpe. Sepuya’s constant, portraiture, is not just an art form; it’s a celebration of the human form—a curve, a line, the elegance of nudity—that invites viewers to unravel layers of meaning or simply revel in the aesthetic pleasure.

As Metaphore contemplates the resonances within ‘Exposures,’ we find ourselves immersed in a profound dialogue where art becomes a mirror reflecting the intricacies of identity, connection, and the timeless dance between the capturer and the captured.

‘Exposures’ is on at Nottingham Contemporary from 27 January – 5 May 2024

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