Studio Lenca: Leave to Remain

14 Apr-16 Jun 2024

Carl Freedman Gallery
Margate CT9 1NS


Leave to Remain is a solo exhibition of recent painting and sculpture by Salvadoran artist Studio Lenca, his debut show for Carl Freedman Gallery.

Preview: Saturday 13th April, 5-8pm. All welcome.
Exhibition runs 14th April – 16th June 2024. 12-5pm, Wednesday-Sunday. Free entry.

Studio Lenca (b.1986 La Paz, El Salvador) is based at TKE Studios, Margate, UK. ‘Studio’ refers to a space for experimentation, a laboratory for praxis; ‘Lenca’ links the artist to the Mesoamerican indigenous people of eastern El Salvador.

Leave to Remain explores the artist’s own experience of being forcibly displaced as a consequence of conflict. According to the latest data from the UNHCR,  70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.9 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Leave to Remain is the artist’s investigation into the liminal space of migration, where home is adjacent and irreconcilable all at the same time . The displaced narrative is reconfigured and the conversation is extended to enable investigation and redemption.

In collaboration with KRAN (Kent Refugee Action Network), Studio Lenca will create large sculptures depicting volcanos, an ever present feature of the landscape in his native El Salvador. For the artist, volcanos represent potentiality, a rupture and the natural movement of matter.  Turning Carl Freedman gallery into a studio,  the artist will build the forms together with newly arrived refugees, exploring the borderless qualities of artmaking,  a space for different forms of knowledge.

In his characteristic, Los Historiantes paintings, the artist’s allusions to materiality and the depiction of regal figures seek to decentralise the collective idea of his Salvadoran identity. Proud, courageous and visible. The subjects stare out from the canvas, holding our gaze. Sharply dressed in colourful outfits and hats, confidently taking up space.  The work playfully references a combination of biographical anecdotes, personal reflections and folkloric iconography. Visual cues are recalibrated to reclaim autonomy over a fragmented history.

In the artist’s practice, the subject of the displacement expands into a dynamic, maximalist, rhizomatic entanglement that cannot be contained, much like the volcanos and stories within Leave to Remain. The exhibition is about creating a critical window, a space for discussion, forcing us to address Margate as a border town.

The work offers a lens on the artists own sense of belonging and joy to defy the narrative surrounding his community. His work offers an altogether different sensibility from the forced assimilation and secrecy caused by immigration systems.

Studio Lenca creates a world where we are empowered to tell our own stories.