Sketches of Belo, seven weeks in an African village

16 Sep 2009 > 17 Oct 2009

On 16 September Tasneem Gallery launched the new book SKETCHES OF BELO, seven weeks in an African Village by artist Anthony Pilley. This fascinating book beautifully illustrates his experiences, and observations of local life, during a seven-week stay in the Cameroon village of Belo in 2007. The accompanying exhibition features those paintings and it is the last in the series of shows representing artists, from outside of Spain, who now live and work in the region of Catalunya.

Pilley is probably best known in Barcelona for his distorted and almost disturbing representations of two famous Barcelona landmarks, the Sagrada Familia and the Ramblas. This image is one of the most sold image of Barcelona in the last two decades.

He originally went to Cameroon to work for a non-governmental organisation and to experience a different culture to that of his native Scotland and the bustle of his adopted home, Barcelona.

He was so inspired by the radical change of environment that he felt compelled to paint what he saw. He says “I felt there was a direct link between the way I painted the Sagrada Familia when I arrived in this hectic metropolis, and the images I painted during my stay in Belo. The force is in the emotional content of my reaction to the new situation and in my ability to capture that force without filtering it through a safe or pre-determined style of painting. Any new situation is an adventure and the painting that comes from it must also be one. In Belo it was so different and strange that I found myself wanting to paint that sensation.”

He continues, “I believe that one of the reasons for the success of my Sagrada Familia painting, over so many years, is that the visitor to Barcelona links directly to the sensory impact I captured in seeing the building for the first time. I was painting that initial impact.” On his return to Barcelona he was keen to share his experiences in Belo with others and that is when the idea for the book and the exhibition came together.

The book is a celebration of life in a small Cameroon village from the view-point of an outsider bowled over by its simple beauty. In addition to paintings and sketches, the book is full of little vignettes and witty observations of the locals and their customs which help to put the works into context and bring them to life.

Pilley has used a mixture of inks, tempera and the ever-present Belo mud as his media and in doing so he has made sure that there is a little bit of Belo in every work. He said “My favourite piece must be ‘On the way up to the market III’ because it reminds me of the seemingly constant river of mud and how the locals rose above it to conduct their lives.”

The book SKETCHES OF BELO, seven weeks in an African Village will be available for sale at the exhibition. The exhibition runs, at Tasneem Gallery, from 16 September to 17 October 2009.

About the artist

Anthony Pilley was born in the US and spent his formative years in Edinburgh, Scotland. He has been painting for as long as he can remember and has exhibited in Britain, Spain, France and the US.

Aside from painting, he has worked as a musician, singer and composer of music for film and television. In his native Edinburgh, he ran Barclay Towers Recording Studios for eight years and hosted a music programme on Radio Forth, Scotland. He has also worked as an actor in theatre and film.

He now lives and works in Barcelona where, in addition to painting every day, he runs a successful business producing and selling prints of his artworks.