René Tavares’ work is based on a process of research spanning through archives, photographs, and literature while bringing to the front stage themes related to historical and socio-political issues which affected different African countries. With a predilection for painting and drawing, Tavares’ artistic practice also includes photography, video, performance and installation. The artist’s work evolves and expands in the form of projects and series which develop over time according to his own experiences of transition between different artistic languages, between the African and European continents, between insular and continental Africa, but also between the local and the global, the individual and the collective. By questioning assimilated, neglected and forgotten heritages and by challenging the rigidity of categories and prejudices, the artist’s works are produced in an impulsive and engaged mode to raise awareness and to trigger processes of resilience and social empowerment.
Using a palette of rich, deep, and earthy colours and working the canvas in layers and all over, Tavares' figurative universe, with its dreamlike atmosphere, is filled with memories and human presence, faces and gazes that look at us throughout space and time. The works also emphasise iconographic and symbolic elements such as cotton flower fields and plantations, specific animals, objects, and housings along with the depiction of single and group portraits. These collective pictures of men and women, either standing peacefully or shown in their interactions and daily activities, aim to reflect on the historical processes of hybridisation and miscegenation happening between several ethnic groups, communities, and cultures including components assimilated during the colonial and post-colonial eras. Either through his paintings or multi-medium installations which often included striking words referring to racism and discrimination, Tavares fuses references taken from ancestral practices and belief systems, collective memories and heritage with contemporaneity and globalisation. Thus, the whole work highlights the processes of appropriation, integration, and merging of heterogeneous religious, social, and cultural components that compose many African cultures.
Tavares holds a Bachelor's in Fine Arts and Visual Arts from the Dakar School of Fine Arts (Senegal), a postgraduate degree in Visual Arts, Painting and Photography from the Rennes School of Fine Arts (France), and a Master's in Art and Heritage Sciences from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Lisbon (Portugal). Highlights of his career include the selection as a finalist for the EDP Foundation New Artists Award (2022), the Public Vote Prize for the Norval Sovereign African Art Prize (2022), the nomination for Africa’s most influential new artistic talent (FNB Joburg Art Fair, 2018), and the Artist Revelation Prize at São Tomé and Príncipe’s biennale of Art and Culture (2002).