T rue trailblazers find ways to fuse together multiple influences in ways that feel fresh, and Lous and the Yakuza is no exception. The Belgian singer and rapper (real name, Marie-Pierra Kakoma) blends pop, trap and R&B on critically acclaimed albums like GORE and IOTA that couldn't have been created by anyone but her.
When she isn't selling out shows in Paris, Brussels, New York and London, she is modelling for the likes of Louis Vuitton and Chloé, obsessing over her true love, manga comics, and creating her own drawings and paintings. Here she talks through her influences, inspirations and choices for Sotheby's Contemporary Curated sale in Paris from 23rd to 30th March. She will exhibit three of her own paintings in the exhibition in our Paris galleries.
What are your earliest memories of being exposed to art? Who made an impression?
I think my earliest memory is around four years old and it was probably classical music, It would be someone like Bach or Mozart or Vivaldi.
How would you describe your taste in art? Who would you choose to hang on your walls?
Oh, I'm extremely obnoxious! I only have my own art on my wall. What I do have from artists is pieces of furniture and that's mainly from the 70s. I have designer stuff but it's mainly fashion and design, not paintings.
You grew up between the Congo. Rwanda and Belgium. How did these places influence you artistically?
So much, I think especially in the design of forms and shapes. I think my approach is very minimal – or basic, depending on who sees it. I love the way forms are very straightforward – it's a circle, a rectangle, a square. Everything is in those original shapes. The way they create patterns inspires me. So I have a pattern on my forehead and it's so much part of me, I don't even notice it anymore.
A Life Less Ordinary: Guest Curator Lous and the Yakuza
Can you tell us more about that signature symbol? When did you start painting that?
I started drawing that thing on my forehead when I was 18 so now it's been almost nine years, And before that I used to draw a lot of symbols on my knees and on my hands. I feel like my body is my first canvas. I don't have to buy it, I don't have to entertain: it's just there. It's a blank canvas for me to create something every day and and then it became a habit. If you see pictures of me from five years ago, I had zillions of symbols on me – I looked crazy. And then with time, I built something that fits more with who I am.
You curated the exhibition on your body?
You're a big fan of manga. What is it about that genre that particularly appeals to you?
Manga always struck me when I was young because of the way it approaches the expression of emotion. Everything is way more vivid, I feel, And I always relate to the subject. It's always like intense friendship, intense drama, intense everything! When I used to watch Western cartoons, nothing felt real for me. I enjoyed Disney when I was young, but I never related to any. When you think about Disney, you think of Sleeping Beauty where the story is that she's been asleep for a long time. It's just weird and there's no sense behind it. The main character is not interesting. The witch is interesting! She has a backup story. Even the Prince is more interesting. But the girl herself is so boring. I couldn't understand why such vain characters were the main characters. I don't feel like they were giving me any sort of advice or commenting on society or anything.
I realise now, looking back at it, that that's what I was searching for in everything – to get a very clear message. And I found that in manga so deeply. Even if you think about Pokemon – Ash is trying so badly to collect all the Pokemon to be the best, just for the sake of his passion. Which is very similar to being an artist – you want to do something just because you want to do it. You know. It starts with just the wish and the will. And then when I grew up, I started learning about Japanese culture and I realized that mangas are just an intense reflection of culture and the way they see everything.
Have you visited Japan?
No, I'm even scared now to go because I've been fantasising about this country so much! I'm supposed to be going in April. If my work allows me to...
Lous and the Yakuza's Picks from Contemporary Curated
As a singer and a musician, how important is the visual element of your work?
Oh, it's completely central. I think especially nowadays. I wish it wasn't the case sometimes but it's completely central. I don't see myself releasing music without visuals. Whether it is a single where there's a video or even an event in real life. I have to present myself in a certain way because image is really important. I feel like the way something looks is already half of the message.
People love to say "it doesn't matter what you look like; appearance doesn't matter". No, it does. It's a part of the job. The way we dress is a message of the vibe of what we don't like or what we like. And I think you can gain so much power when you understand that people use their eyes all the time. Try your best to express what's in your heart on the outside because that's what people will see and that's how they will interact with you. Image has such a huge importance in my life and especially my craft.
What is energising you as an artist at the moment?
Drawing. The last couple of weeks, I've been drawing every single day and it's been amazing. I've never been this happy my entire life. I just think making art makes me fully happy. I draw for ten hours and nobody's paying me for this, nobody's forcing me to do this. And that's what I prefer – it reminds me of the early days of my musical career where I had no pressure. Nobody was waiting for me on nothing. I missed this feeling and now that I get it back I'm like "oh my God it's like remembering what being an artist is". It's not being a product. With drawing, it's part creativity but it's part technique and technique can also make you happy if you see yourself evolving. It's so so satisfying.
Are you inspired by any contemporary artists or manga authors in particular?
Anything that is by Naoki Urasawa who is the the manga artist who did Monster, which is one of the best manga I've ever read in my life. Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama, but he's really young, I can't wait for him to write, to hear what's next...I can't wait for him to develop his next story and to follow his craft. Also, Satoshi Kon – he did the movie Paprika. I could I could go on for hours; there's so many of them that inspire me!
Which pieces in the Contemporary Curated sale stood out to you?
The first one that struck me is the completely blue one by Jacques Monory: the murder in the bathroom. Because of the contrast with the complete peacefulness of the bathroom – your intimacy and loneliness in you taking care of yourself, taking a shower, and the concept of death in the same place. And the image not being red too. You would imagine it being white and red. I love the fact that everything was blue as if it was an old murder, as if it has been there for ages and it just part of the place and you have to accept it. I think it is incredibly beautiful.
With the Marlene Dumas, at first, I didn't pick it because I didn't really like the work at the beginning but then I saw the title: To be dead, to be really dead, that must be glorious and I was like yes! Creepy.
The Malick Sidibé photo – that was beautiful. It reminds me of my childhood. Of all the pictures I used to see both of my father and my mother in the 60s and 70s and how cool they look. It gives me a sense of family and home. And I love the Antoni Tàpies with the two crosses. I really love that. Because I used to be Christian my entire life, and crosses give me a sense of comfort. I'm also into symmetry and parallels. I love that it was on cardboard too – that was a surprise.
I can't wait wait to see all of the pieces again hung up in the exhibition!