Carpets as canvas

A line of Sylla’s paintings at the Studio 22 gallery.
Image by: Kendra Pierroz
A line of Sylla’s paintings at the Studio 22 gallery.

Studio 22 doesn’t shy away from pushing boundaries. 

The Games of Love, Come and Go, a current exhibition at the Studio 22 gallery by Ndaté Sylla, is a prime example. 

Sylla’s work is unusual in his use of recycled carpets as canvases and of mixed media, including acrylic, paper and burlap, to provide texture to his abstract, Chagall-esque creations.  

Ally Jacob, co-owner of the gallery, said while Studio 22 often starts out with a few pieces by a new artist, Sylla’s body of work stood out. 

“We liked him. We liked what it was, and wanted to show it all as a whole thing, so we sort of took that on right away,” Jacob told The Journal. 

Jacob said the inspiration behind Sylla’s collection, which the artist brought with him from Switzerland, was a love affair with a woman under the pseudonym Fleur. The name appears in the title of every art piece in the exhibition. 

The exhibit, composed of 12 mixed media paintings, fits in smoothly with the brick walls and exposed wood of Studio 22. The ethereal atmosphere is supplemented by smooth jazz and light streaming through the windows, with Kingston City Hall visible in the background. 

In an email to The Journal, Sylla wrote that his approach to art was based mainly in his love of life, people and diversity. 

“I simply found my inspiration in LOVE. We all need love.” 

Sylla’s use of mixed media and recycled materials stands out in the exhibit. With recycled carpets as his canvas, the artist used a combination of paint and other materials to incorporate texture into his artwork. The objects embedded in the paintings range from a belt and a papier-mâché bag to a dried orange peel. 

Sylla, for whom recycling is an important aspect of his art, said it’s not just about recycling old materials. 

“First of all, recycling is important … But it’s not only recycling our garbage. It’s also enabling those people who feel that they have been rejected by our community or society because of their weaknesses or mistakes, to find a new purpose, a new place. We have to find ways to change things for the better,” he wrote.

Sylla’s childhood was defined by poverty, an experience which Jacob said influenced his empathetic outlook and interest in recycled materials.

“He’s a lovely man and has a really open demeanor, and talks about having enough, and if you have enough and then you get more, then what you need is enough, and you give it to somebody else,” she said. 

The artist’s message and his use of unlikely materials attracted Jacob to Sylla’s work, which she describes as “dynamic and interesting.”

The gallery has also benefitted from exhibiting Sylla’s art. Jacob said the gallery found that more abstract exhibits attract a younger audience — one they’re interested in courting. 

“We’re more interested in younger people and younger buyers and the things that they are attracted to, so we do really like to mix in things that are not as comprehensible, because we find that the younger audience will respond to that,” she said. 

“A simple landscape is lovely, but not all that interesting. It doesn’t do anything for them. So it is important for us to be able to find other interesting work and show it.” 

Ndaté Sylla’s “The Games of Love, Come and Go” runs from October 27 to December 6.

For more information visit the Studio 22 website,


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