centrepiece : Voodoo visions

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All the works in the October Gallery's exhibition "Haiti" - photographs, paintings, ironworks - have been created since Baby Doc fled the country in 1986. The period since has seen dramatic change, with the election of Aristide, the coup which ousted him in 1991, and his reinstatement as president last year. The exhibition combines images of this volatile country in several media. There are photos by 25 photographers from other countries, paintings (including that by Frantz Lamothe, left) and works in metal by Haitian artists. So there are images of the place, and images from it. The former tend towards a heightened realism, capturing some of the surface tension of Haitian life, the latter to the personal, poetic and iconographic.

Haitian art is informed by the spiritual life of the society, and in the case of Prosper Pierrelouis, inspired by Voodoo. Until he was 16, Pierrelouis worked for his father, a voodoo priest, arranging sacrifices for the spirits, and learning to drum. His work, large and colourful, is figurative but not naturalistic. An image he returns to is a faceless dancer. It is very powerful and disturbing because it remains elusive. But perhaps it would be clear to someone steeped in Voodoo, which assigns meanings to colours and cosmic value to lines.

The metalwork is easier to get to grips with; sculptures created from oil-drums salvaged from rubbish dumps. These are a testimony to the Haitian artists' creativity and innovation in the face of terrible hardship. More than this, they have a clarity and strength of line that is very beautiful.

Julian May

`Haiti', The October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester St, WC1 (0171-242 7367) 27 Apr-17 Jun

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