Sheherazade Thenard & Milo Davis | Rootwork: Sowing Seeds

March 4, 2023
March 26, 2023

Chilli Art Projects are very excited to present a special duo show of new paintings by Sheherazade Thenard and Milo Davis. Thenard and Davis are close friends, having studied at the University of Central Florida together. Both create seductive portals that consider past and present, flowing seamlessly through time and space in order to reflect on displacement and assimilation. Thenard’s jewel-toned figures appear in chromatically rich lush landscapes, often alone - reflecting on the tradition of queer depiction, while Davis’ works reflect upon the tales of migrant children, travelling in pursuit of safety and self-determination.

Sheherazade Thenard’s work is in many ways a biomythography, weaving her family’s layered history with her own lived experience to create a stunning narrative of Southern American life at the intersection of class, race and sexuality. These multifaceted, deep and beautiful compositions explore the politicisation of black skin through the use of illuminated, saturated tones to create quasi-mythical characters that sit in harmony with their radiant, rich landscapes. These environments act as concealing elements, as well as both entrapment and sanctuary from societal pressures.

The atmosphere of these works gives them an almost spiritual quality, as stories of generations past are reconstructed, reinterpreted and retold on the surface of the canvas. Thenard’s mode of storytelling, as well as the breadth of marks and surfaces gives the work a tapestry-like quality - distant narratives, scenarios and geographies are stitched together to build a new reality. The works are also tinged with pathetic fallacy - the warm, blushing oranges of the Florida sunset indicative of hope and happiness - in some areas the works themselves almost radiate, brimming with excitement.

Milo Davis’s works also glow - this time with a buzzing phosphorescent green, which advances forward as if to pull and envelope the viewer into a spiritual paradise. The green hints at notions of the promised land, renewal, fertility, abundance and security. Similar to a green traffic light, the audience are invited to enter, engage and exist unperturbed. Together we are welcomed into these intimate portals whose presence pulls from personal history & recollections, as well as African oral traditions.

In ‘Homecoming’, Davis references the Sankofa symbol (to retrieve), an ideology belonging to the Akan tribe in Ghana which emphasises learning from the past to ensure a strong future. This is a fitting metaphor for Davis’ practice as they weave personal narratives together with history and tradition, to create a paradisiacal vision of a future informed by both her own and her relatives’ past.

Formally, both artists have a distinct hand - utilising different modes of mark making to construct rich paintings that reward the viewer the longer they look. Thenard and Davis’s works reveal a layered history that uncovers itself gradually from beneath a beautiful commotion of colour and gesture.

Sheherazade Thenard. Blue Bottle Tree: The Fool & The Chariot, 2023. Oil, pastel, Swarovski crystals on canvas. 161x184cm.

Sheherazade Thenard. The Bluest Note, 2023. Oil, pastel, mother of pearl on canvas. 150x163cm.

Sheherazade Thenard. Ancestral Ties, Long Shadows, 2023. Oil, frame on canvas. 120x89cm.

Sheherazade Thenard. Dyke Walk, 2023. Oil, pastel on canvas. 120x89cm.

Sheherazade Thenard. The Tree That Never Fruited, 2023. Oil on wood. 51x40.5cm.

Sheherazade Thenard. A Spiders Wisdom, 2023. Oil, pastel, vinyl, thread on canvas. 150x160cm.

Milo Davis. Communion, 2023. Oil on canvas. 155x230cm.

Milo Davis. Homecoming, 2023. Oil on canvas. 165x230cm.

Milo Davis. Birthright, 2023. Oil on canvas. 145x230cm.

Milo Davis. Patriarch, 2023. Oil on wood. 61x45.5cm.

Milo Davis. Milkweed, 2023. Oil on gessoboard. 102x76cm.