Izere Antoine has over time established himself as a figurative painter focused on the progression of roles of women within society. He depicts his subjects with a multitude of expressive layers of oil paint, utilizing his palette knife and paint brush. His dynamic composition of women placed in rural landscapes and agricultural fields are an ode to his upbringing in the northern region of Rwanda. Izere’s lived experience and perceptions of his mother, sisters, and other family members played a pivotal role in shaping the direction of his work. He intimately captures the expression, gaze, strength, and aura of his muses to convey part of their stories to his viewers.
For his second solo show titled “Streams and Trails” which is on view at Mitochondria Gallery in Houston, Texas, Izere intends to encourage others into the journey of self-discovery. The works immerse viewers with nature and the process of cultivating land, crops, and domestic animals. He observed parallels in the development process from seed to yield, that are applicable to self-growth, awareness, and the transformation of throughts to realities.
The titles of works in this exhibition are reflective of the life cycles of crops and Rwandan culture. For instance, “The Crown of the Feast” is an ode to “Umuganura”, an annual Rwandan tradition of thanksgiving. This celebration originates from Rubanda, who presented their harvest to the King as an offering so all could feast. In this painting the muse is standing in the shade as the rays of the sun penetrate though the trees to illuminate her gown and head wrap. She is gazing at the viewer, with an expression of tranquility and confidence. There is an abundance of pineapples behind her in the plushy hilly countryside ready for harvest.
The work titled “Mana Y’umwero” features a muse who is 6 feet 4 inches tall in real life, she exchanges gaze with the viewer with an air of calmness. She is positioned at the front of the painting surrounded by lush vegetation, shrubs, fruit trees, and chickens roaming the land. “Mana Y’umwero” translates to “Goddess of the harvest” from Kinyarwanda, the national language of Rwanda. Izere is extending the Rwandan tradition of naming people based on praise given to the various representational attributes associated with their Creator.
In “Take me to the river,” the muse is positioned in a path confined by trees, she is next to three sheep that are all gazing at the viewer. Her sense of style and confidence are elegantly captured as a glimmer of sun set can be observed at the posterior of the path. Water symbolizes the source of life in some parts of Rwandan tradition as the river was a meeting ground for conversation, sharing ideas, and replenishment.
In “Run life”, Izere is exploring the feelings associated with uncertainty and future potential. The background features land that has been tilled for cultivation, and the exposed soil extends to the distance where it converges into the bushes. The muse is positioned in front of the painting, she is wearing an over coat, which covers her sweater and skirt. Her hands are tucked into the pocket of her overcoat, she displays a non-engaging gaze. There is a level of optimism expressed by the body language of the muse on the possibility of what may arise from the tilled land.
In the bodies of work presented, Izere Antoine has put forth cohesive and compelling narratives around outdoor therapy infused with his Rwandan upbringing to create compositions of paintings with striking visually quality. Streams and Trails in on view at Mitochondria Gallery, in Houston Texas from August 12th to September 2nd, 2023.