In the specter of otherworldly and fantastical imagery in Brian Dailey’s Impressions of Africa Redux (2014), visions of flora, fauna, and celestial phantasm draw the viewer into a mesmerizing universe. The enigmatic wild creatures enveloped by these intricate scenes are animated by their elaborate environments, swirling cosmological forms, and the intensity of the lighting effects. Mounted on plexiglass and dramatically backlit, the five-foot tall composite images have a surreal cinematic and three-dimensional quality.

Working in Paris in 1976, Dailey assisted his friend and fellow artist Guy de Cointet with his performance piece Impressions of Africa, a pastiche of the eccentric French writer Raymond Roussel’s 1910 fanciful travelogue of the same name. Nearly forty years after de Cointet’s performances captivated Paris audiences, Dailey’s Impressions of Africa Redux series pays tribute to his friend and the sources of inspiration they shared. Roussel’s mantra, “imagination accounts for everything in my works,” is echoed in Dailey’s imaginative compositions wherein logic is equally defied. 

At the same time, Dailey shifts the lens from the earlier colonial and post-colonial frameworks reflected in Roussel’s and de Cointet’s works, bringing a contemporary global perspective honed by the artist’s foray into hybrid creative practices and international experiences in our post post-colonial era. The frozen moments captured in these elaborate tableaux play on a conceptualized narrow distance of time and space, a ritual of virtual travel that oscillates between fact and fiction. A similar duality is reflected in the various beasts of prey, which appear alternately menacing and vulnerable. 

The cosmological aspects of the Impressions of Africa Redux images introduce another dimension of significance to this project. Not only do the specific celestial images represent the origins of the universe writ large and our minuscule role in it, but they also have particular meaning for the artist, whose earlier work at the White House National Space Council focused on celestial and cosmological aspects of space. 

Fauna and flora similarly contain encoded meanings in these works. They represent the aspects of nature that have remained unadulterated while we as humans have grown more distant from and lost touch with the natural world. As our increasingly urban society continues to divorce us from nature, our connection to and understanding of our existence and origins—particularly as it relates to the African cradle of our species—becomes even more remote.