"Artists are successful when their work creates a positive impact on others. It is about sharing happiness and serving the collective advantage."
Jean David Nkot is the Cameroonian artist and creative mind behind the success of The New Hercules, his latest series and new exhibition at AFIKARIS Gallery in Miami Beach. The Sybarite spoke with Jean David about what made him become an artist, his current work and what success means to him.
Tell our readers a bit about yourself.
My name is Jean David Nkot. I am a Cameroonian visual artist. My work follows the depiction of the human condition as a guideline. If it tackles different issues and explores various topics, it always sheds light on humans to inspire the viewers by showing them other life trajectories. After obtaining my baccalaureate in 2010, I graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts in Foumban in 2013, with a degree in plastic arts. Throughout my training at the Fine Arts Institute of Foumban, I obtained several artistic distinctions (Best sculptor, installer, and painter). In 2017, I joined the Post Master "Moving Frontiers" organized by the École Nationale supérieure d'Art de Paris-Cergy (France) on the theme of borders. I also learned a lot by visiting the studios of other Cameroonian artists such as Salifou Lindou, Hervé Youmbi, Jean Jacques Kanté, Pascal Kenfack, and Ruth Belinga.
What got you into the art world? Did you always want to be an artist?
In the beginning, I never thought to become an artist, I was a handyman but art was not something I imagined doing in my life. But growing up, art started to become more and more important to me, to express my frustration about what I observed in society. In 2006, when I joined the Mbalmayo Artistic Formation Institute, art became a vocation.
Which art trends inspire your current work? Where did you get the inspiration to create The New Hercules?
My current work draws its inspiration from the Renaissance Era and Caravaggio. The New Hercules series is anchored in the work I started in summer 2020 about ore extraction and mining. For this series, I was inspired by Greek mythology: either through the reference to Hercules and the Apple of Discord. Here, my purpose is to give room to the body, to shed light on the anatomy to underline the strength of my characters in echo to their fight to survive in a hostile environment. I did not want to depict them as martyrs but rather heroes.
Is there a specific environment or material that is integral to your work?
I am mainly a painter using acrylic and posca on canvas. However, I often explore new creative paths. To that extend, you can sometimes spot it in my work collage or silkscreen printing. If painting is my mere way of expression, I also do installations and sculptures. Whatever technique I am using, they all echo and complete each other. They propose a new reading of the topic explore.
How has your work progressed over the years?
If I used to focus on the pain and suffering of my characters, now, I put forward their resilience and strength. My topic has also evolved. I still focus on the human condition but now through the angle of ore extraction rather than migration.
What advice would you give to your young self?
I would recommend staying humble, listening to any advice, and above all listening to yourself.
How do you define success as an artist?
For me, artists are successful when their work creates a positive impact on others. It is about sharing happiness and serving the collective advantage.
Which artists inspire you the most?
Hervé Youmbi and Jean Jacques Kanté are sources of inspiration for me in terms of aesthetics, color, and composition. Concerning the manner in which I treat my subject and the violence of the body, I’m inspired by Francis Bacon, Philippe Pasqua, Jenny Saville, and Marlène Dumas.
When you are not working, how do you like to spend your time?
When I’m not working, I like to discuss with my friends and take care of my wife. I also read a lot, watch movies, visit other artists’ studios, and visit exhibitions.
What is one thing about you that surprises people?
My determination and my abnegation in work.
What and/or where is your happy place?
My happy places are the two villages from where my family is.
How do you start your day?
I start by praying and then I plan my day. When I arrive at my studio, I clean it up and I look for the music that will inspire me throughout the day. Then, I start working. I think it is important to first harmonize the body in order to be in osmosis with my work.
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