For the inaugural exhibition of its New York gallery, Blain|Southern proudly presents Abdoulaye Konaté’s first solo exhibition in the United States. In Couleurs d’âme (Soul Colours) the Malian artist approaches socio-political and environmental issues, working solely in the medium of cotton, woven and dyed using traditional West African techniques. This timely presentation introduces the artist via his most recent abstract work, presented in context alongside several landmark earlier pieces, which illustrate his shift towards abstraction over time. Widely recognised as one of West Africa’s pre-eminent contemporary artists, Konaté is known for compositions in Malian cotton that draw on the associations of this material, and balance global political and social reflections with reference to his own local, cultural history. In an early work shown here, Lutte contre le HIV (1995), Konaté charts the effect of the AIDS epidemic on Africa. His work at this time featured more figurative elements and were largely more conceptually based. As also seen in L'Intolérance (1998), these earlier instances incorporated both wall and floor based elements. Gradually, Konaté began to produce more abstract, wall-based compositions, adopting mosaic-like patterns of iridescent colour and subtle inclusion of traditional and contemporary symbols, often referencing the local culture of the countries he was now travelling to. This can be seen in the Berber designs found in Vert Touareg au 3 cercles (2018) that followed an invitation to present in Morocco. This abstraction also alludes to the underlying relationship between colour gradations and musical tonalities. Finding inspiration in the striped costumes of the West African Senufo people, Konaté highlights the inseparable link between visual art and music in Malian culture, where music and decorated costumes play an integral role in the national narratives of commemoration and communication. As a young artist with little access to paint and canvas, his choice of materials was initially driven by what was most readily available to him. The dying of cotton, Mali’s principle export, is commonplace in Bamako and in this material the artist found further inspiration in its connection to local culture and how it links Mali to the rest of the globe. Konaté celebrates material, patern and colour as an emblem of the country’s long standing traditions and industries but in Couleurs d’âme he also aims to take specific local ideas into a realm that is more universal and spiritual.