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Mu.ZEE presents Léonard Pingo: Primordial Earth

July 2–November 12, 2022

Photos rarely do justice to the atmosphere of a landscape. A cropped surface cannot possibly match the mystical and unspoiled reality. Conscious of the limits of photography, Léonard Pongo seeks other ways of giving form to the superhuman force of the Earth. For him, letting go, getting lost and subordination are the only means of becoming part of the environment, and it is from this angle that he sets to work in the Congolese landscape. In Primordial Earth he lets nature speak, without trying to translate. From the traditions and cosmologies of the Kasai region, he introduces us to a world in which humankind is not the protagonist, but a character, secondary to plants and animals.

With his atypical framing, Léonard Pongo shows no ambition to capture nature, but instead gives us the impression that we are standing in the middle of it and can only perceive a fragment of a larger whole. The layers and reflections that slowly slide over each other unfold into a lively and immeasurable likeness that is more of an impression than a reproduction. The materials chosen by the artist also emphasise the tactility of the earth and the rivers, sometimes robust and granular, sometimes liquid and shiny. Indeed, as a photographer, Léonard Pongo does not limit himself to the classic print on the wall, but experiments with texture, transparency and movement, hinting at an overwhelming and constantly changing nature.

Léonard Pongo is a photographer and visual artist. His long-term project The Uncanny has earned him several awards and worldwide recognition. Pongo’s work has been published internationally and featured in numerous exhibitions including the recent IncarNations at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts curated by Kendell Geers & Sindika Dokolo and the 3rd Beijing Photo Biennial at CAFA Art Museum. He was selected as one of PDN’s 30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch in 2016, is a recipient of the Visura Grant 2017, the Getty Reportage Grant 2018 and participated in the Joop Swart Masterclass 2018. Primordial Earth, his latest project, was shown at the Lubumbashi Biennale, the Rencontres de Bamako where it was awarded the Prix de l’OIF, and at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts for his first institutional solo show in Belgium in 2021. His career is divided between his long term projects in Congo DR, teaching and assignment work. Pongo is also a member of The Photographic Collective‘s advisory board. His work is part of both institutional and private collections.

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