Omar Ba (b. Senegal, 1977) has studied both in Senegal (l'Ecole Nationale des Beaux-arts, Senegal, 2002) and in Switzerland (l'Ecole Supérieur des Beaux-arts, Geneva, 2005 and ECAV - MAPS Arts in Public Spheres, 2011). It was in Switzerland around a decade ago that Ba decided to depart from abstract painting and began developing his own distinctive figurative aesthetic.
Today Ba lives and works in both Dakar and Geneva, drawing on past memories and present experiences of both cultures to create works both deeply personal and politically resonant; works that, in his words, ‘tell the stories and weave a thread between’ African and European culture. This notion of duality, whether between North and South, history and contemporaneity, the personal and the political, is central throughout Ba’s work. His paintings, in a fusion of figurative and decorative modes, depict part-real, part-imaginary worlds populated with human and animal beings, organic patterns often inspired by traditional Senegalese ornaments, geographic and political symbols such as maps and flags – a dizzying array of earthly life. Their material composition is similarly hybrid, mixing masterful use of oil, gouache and crayon and delicately applied china ink with rough, readymade surfaces such as corrugated cardboard.
Many of Ba’s images over the past decade have depicted a world of violence and conflict, a potent exploration of the legacies of colonialism on the African continent. Soldiers, political leaders, labourers, skeletons emerge against black painted backdrops, a symbolic depiction of a contemporary 'state of emergency'. More recently, however, Ba has reoriented his focus, seeking to celebrate the beauty and grandeur of the people of Africa, exploring the often forgotten inheritance of today's African diaspora as descendents of the black Pharaohs of Egypt and Nubia.
Ba was the subject of a comprehensive solo exhibition, Same Dream in 2019, which toured Canada to The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto and Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal. Throughout his career, his works have been exhibited widely and internationally at institutions including BOZAR, Brussels, Belgium (2017); Ferme-Asile, Sion, Switzerland (2015); Hales London (2014, 2017); Biennale de Dakar, Senegal (2014); Aagauer Kunsthaus, Switzerland (2012) and many others. Ba’s works can be found in private and public collections, including Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Canada; Credit Suisse, Switzerland; Fonds municipal d’art contemporain de la Ville de Geneve, Switzerland; Fonds municipal d’art contemporain de la Ville de Paris, France;Centre national des arts plastiques, France; Louvre Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and the Barbier-Mueller Collection, Switzerland. In 2011, Ba received the prestigious Swiss Art Award.