African Modern & Contemporary Art

5 Questions for Vincent Michéa

By Sotheby's
Ahead of the upcoming Modern & Contemporary African Art auction on 16 October, Charlotte Lidon sat down with artist Vincent Michéa to discuss his passion for found imagery, and the works offered for sale at Sotheby's.

1. Africa has nourished your artistic creations for many years and you decided to move from France and settle in Senegal in the 1980s. Can you tell us more about your love for Africa, and Senegal in particular?

Firstly, it was the curiosity and desire to work in such a different environment. I discovered Dakar in 1986 when the culture was very exciting. It was the time of the Afro-pop cinema and the precursors of African rap with the Positive Black Soul of Didier Awadi. It was a good time for the visual arts as well – It was 100% Dakar! I had the opportunity to work in this fulfilling atmosphere with my first job as a graphic designer, and experiment as a painter. I had my first solo show in 1987 at la Galerie Nationale du Sénégal.

2. You were a graphic designer until 1998 when you decided to become an artist. How has your first job influenced you today?

From 1988 to 1991, I went back to Paris where I worked for/with Roman Cieslewicz, a famous graphic designer to whom the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris today pay tribute. There, I reinforced my already very serious interest in printed things and mechanical printing techniques. Ever since then, I have collected images to use as a source of inspiration. I also practice photography in a meaningful sense of the term; photomontage makes me feel close to the graphic designer I used to be. It brings me back to Arts-appliqués. A table, scissors, glue, and pictures are all that's needed for a photomontage. Designing and manually working with very simple tools is one of the most significant acts for a creator who likes to produce sensitive images loaded with extreme tensions.

3. Does music play a big part in your life?

Along with many people of my generation, I discovered Africa through its music before traveling to the African continent. It was the time of Fela Kuti and the Dakar Xalam. In 1984 Youssou N'dour did his first concert in France at the Eldorado. I like music and vinyl, as much for the auditory pleasure as the visual aspect they gave through the record sleeves. It is an endless source of inspiration and information from both aesthetic and sociological points of view. For several years I used them as models to improve my painting technique.

4. Humans play an important role in your work. Today in your studio, I am surrounded by works depicting trees. Can you tell me more about them?

I try patiently to paint things that are easily readable; paintings that I think are pleasant to look at. I paint what surrounds me. What is close to me and within reach of the eye; views of existential environments, consciously lived, but also consciously felt. The subject is deeply important when painting.

5. Your Ivorian-based gallerist Cécile Fakhoury has just inaugurated a new space in Dakar. The exhibition shows new works in collaboration with the artist Sadikou Oukpejo. How did you approach this work with four hands? What do you think about opening a gallery in Senegal?

I am absolutely not a sculptor, I do not see in 3 dimensions. I also haven't much visual and emotional interest in front of the vast majority of sculptures, and the challenge was there in the work of Sadikou. His work is brutal, organic, primitive and painful. I know the artist and that played a bit part in this collaboration despite our diametrically opposed universes, both formally and methodologically. We came to create a coherent set of sculptures, paintings, and collages. I want to thank Sadikou Oukpedjo once again, and Cécile Fakhoury who believed in our project, supported it from the beginning to the end.

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