In collaboration with:

Nosbaum Reding Gallery

Life is a Dream

Barthélémy Toguo, Damien Deroubaix, Manuel Ocampo

29th July - 2nd September 2023

Wilhelmina’s is excited to present Life is a Dream, the gallery’s second show on Hydra in collaboration with the Nosbaum Reding gallery which will feature works by the world class international artists Barthélémy Toguo of Cameroon, Damien Deroubaix of France and Manuel Ocampo of the Philippines.

Inspired by Calderon de la Barca’s Golden Age play “Life is a Dream” these three artists highlight in new ways ideas and motifs particularly rife in the imagination of artists during the Baroque period. They bring to life dreamlike and sometimes nightmarish visions of an invisible world which all have the same purpose : to warn against deception and remind of the need for people to keep an eye firmly on what matters in this fleeting world where we are actors for a very short time. Accordingly, this exhibition is conceived as three acts.

Act I

Manuel Ocampo expresses these themes vivid and directly through grinning devils, vanitas motifs and sleeping men (or drunk?) unaware that death is nearly upon them in spite of all the warning signs. In Spanish Golden Age drama from Quevedo’s writings to Calderon de la Barca’s plays (and of course the German Goethe’s famous Faust) devils were the means by which the vain and empty promises were depicted. Often we grab at something we think we want, lured in by “a devil” and it turns into ashes in our arms. By the entrance on the left one of Manuel Ocampo’s grinning, dancing devils invites the viewer into the gallery with a winning smile promising wild fun – but where do parties, greed and excess all lead? By the look of the devil in the painting, nowhere good. As the title of the painting says, “Devils Dance Alone.”

Act II

Damien Deroubaix warns of time’s relentless passing with his powerful and wise pulpous sea creatures juxtaposed against the words Life and Goes on Time (or Time Goes On) and Sueño (dream in Spanish.) These paintings are like contemporary Renaissance hieroglyphs or emblems. The interplay of word and image create a poetic conceit: the medusa and the octopus appear to have a robust and powerful outline, but in fact these creatures are soft and formless, ever changing, vague. In this way Deroubaix unmasks time - this entity that constrains us, that we plan our life around and forget about, a finite commodity that is both so well and ill-defined. As an extension of this idea, Damien’s Melancholia series is mystical in nature and takes us into another plain of existence beyond the boundaries of time.

Act III

Barthélémy Toguo’s work also brings to life a spiritual realm beyond the senses. But whereas Ocampo and Deroubaix’s art of disillusionment references the Baroque era directly, he approaches these ideas from another viewpoint entirely. In his dreamlike universe the devils are protecting devils, the animals are guiding totems, sprits dance with nature, birds and fish coexist. He points to what really matters – unity, connection with nature, the invisible world made visible but also an element of suffering like in his series Come and Share Life. This body of work provides the counterpoint to the other two artists’ aesthetics, completing the other side of the coin from disillusionment – a revelation of what is tangible and worth pursuing.

—Wilhelmina von Blumenthal

Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view
Life is a Dream, Exhibition view