Hans Poppe’s richly painted oil on fabric portraits share his heritage and the culture of Tanzania. To see more of his artwork, please visit his website.
This past year has been incredible for me. I debuted at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition and returned to Manifesto for the fourth time since 2010, and my first solo exhibition, “The Fabric of Tanzania,” was on view at the Daniels Spectrum Hallway Galleries in Toronto since November 12th to January 31st, 2016. When I’m not working as a freelance graphic designer, or painting, I mentor at-risk youth, working with The Remix Project and Arts Lab. This work pairs young artists with mentors and provides me with a different channel through which to engage the community via art.
When I was four years old, while sitting with my Mother on a porch in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I looked up to see a drawing my Aunt pinned up. I remember asking my Mom, “Whose picture is that?” (thinking it was a photograph). She replied with a simple, “It’s your Auntie’s drawing.” I remember looking at my crayons and that piece of paper in front of me and trying to make sense that a human, a being like me, was able to do “that.” It was at that moment that I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Now in my mid-thirties, I am a contemporary artist on the rise. I paint, print, illustrate and work as a freelance graphic designer. After graduating with honours from Humber College in 2002, I enjoyed a successful career in advertising and design before returning to studies at the Toronto School of Art to focus on painting in 2008.
Out of frustration with the corporate world, I took advantage of a lump sum redundancy package and decided to take a year off and paint. I figured if I wanted to stop complaining that I’m not happy about what I do creatively, I needed to stop talking about it and be about it. So “the be about it” was let’s see what being an artist really means.
The years that followed were turbulent, filled with depression and some battles with my demons, trying to make sense of life, my finances and my relationship. It was important for me to travel back and forth to Tanzania every couple of years or so because without realizing it at the time, it became the greatest source of my inspiration.
My latest body of work combines traditional art media with African culture. The subject matter is inspired by my African heritage and my fascination with the untold stories of their day-to-day life. In a city as diverse as Toronto, I rarely get to see the “African-Canadian” self being represented as well as I believe we can be. Africa is not the hunger commercials, poverty and war stricken place painted in the media. It is a beautiful land with a rich cultural history and an evolved people and I aspire to reflect that version of African in my work.
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