Can you tell about your journey?
I am Kofi, an artist of Ghanaian origin. I live and work in Paris. I have been painting since I was a child and started drawing very young. Quickly I wanted to live my passion. My first sketches were reproductions of comics and mangas but I quickly evolved towards portraits. I wanted to get closer to reality. My parents, although they admired my work, did not want me to engage in this artistic way, but rather that I find a “real” job. They feared that this world, hardly penetrable, is even more so for a black man.
This is how I turned to graphic design to reconcile my passion for drawing and my interest in advertising. From graphic designer to Artistic Director in advertising agencies through the women’s press, working in business allowed me to understand the codes and languages of that world and thus to consolidate my professional background.
2005 is the year of my very first exhibition in Paris in the Espace Choiseul Gallery.
It was a little difficult to reconcile my professional life and my passion because I invested a lot during that time in the work. And although swarming with ideas, it was difficult for me to paint at night because I was too tired. It took a while before I made the decision to devote more time to painting. The trigger came from the command of one of my friends who wanted me to make a painting for his new apartment.
Then followed an exhibition in the 11th district in Paris where I showcased 15 paintings. The creation of these works was very fast because I was mentally ready for it. This exhibition benefited from good feedbacks.
In 2013, I exhibited in Cannes. It was a live painting where I was able to make many contacts. This new experience has been very rewarding.
A significant and notable evolution is marked by my exhibition in New York in the Hollows gallery in Brooklyn. The idea was to create an artistic work on the wall of the gallery. This represents a very strong moment of my journey especially because this event has been relayed in the New York press which gave a new impetus to my work. From that moment, I was considered as a confirmed artist in his own right. Following the success of this first American experience, I was invited the following year to the New York Art Expo which aims at bringing together different artists.
During these years, I affirmed my identity and I had the opportunity to exhibit in many Parisian galleries including the prestigious gallery Matignon 28 and the Sonia Monti Gallery. These exhibitions were for me a great surprise since I went a little to the bottom by directly demarcating the gallerist.
I worked a lot to promote my work. I wrote and edited my catalog. I worked on my communication via my website and my facebook page. The goal was to make my art live. This allowed me to quickly get income from my paintings through exhibitions but also online sales, although it is true that some periods are more “profitable” than others.
I hold a series of events of greater or lesser scale as the famous exhibition at Miami Art Basel considered by artists as the flagship event of contemporary art that brings together the most famous artists; the annual fair in Bastille, the exhibition at the renaissance hotel in Paris. All these events allowed me to increase my visibility and to communicate on my work.
Eager to evolve, I went to Berlin to learn about graffiti and stencil. An interesting experience I integrated into my work back in Paris. I also do graffiti with the technique of collage in the streets of Paris and some of my works are still on the walls of the capital.
Currently I am preparing an exhibition in London, the idea being to export to as many places as Japan or the United States.
Who are the artists who influenced you, whom do you admire?
In the beginning I was not really influenced by any particular artist. It’s rather my environment that challenged me. This is how I joined a clothing brand that was looking for its graphic identity of patterns that I had observed during one of my walks. I became aware of the impact of my work and I started to develop these patterns and I created a whole series of derivative products ranging from Nike sneakers to mugs. At that time, I realized 5 paintings with these same patterns that became my specificity.
I appreciate the work of several artists including Poliakoff, Keith Haring for the simplicity of his forms, the French artist Jean Dubuffet, the designer Philippe Starck, the American artist Polak. And of course Basquiat, because this artist impressed me enormously by his naive, spontaneous work and the primary colors used.
In my opinion, the artist must influence and impact his audience so that people wonder about the works but about the artist as well.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My work is a work of reflection, with a desire to communicate a message.
I am inspired by my childhood. I keep a certain innocence that I would like to preserve even if I observe the world today with all the excesses and dramas of our time. The field of advertising in which I evolved was not soft but this experience allowed me to take a step back.
I like stories, movies, watching. I am attentive to people, I like to take time to listen. All these elements are my inspiration.
I wish to preserve healthy and spiritual values and to communicate on the peace, the joy that are unfortunately lacking in our current society.
The purpose of my work is to bring a little joy to the people who buy my works, to bring cheerfulness and joy into their interior, and to provide positive energy.
I do not paint when I feel stressed or hurt because I really aspire to give positive through my paintings.
Painting allowed me to come out of difficult times such as a love breakup that deeply marked me.
The love between two people inspires me and touches me. This theme has a strong impact on my work. Indeed, many of my paintings sold evoked love. I feel that I manage to give a little of my sensitivity through these paintings.
What is your particularity?
I work on three axis. In my exhibitions, I can focus on one axis or approach a little of the three to reach the greatest number of people.
The first axis focuses on the theme of modern prehistory. The process consists of formatting images and working on the impact of colors and shapes.
The second axis “Reinventing Writing” is a discovery of characters inspired by hieroglyphs, African and Arabic symbols. My approach is also inspired by ethnology, anthropology, and the work of Cheick Anta Diop. The purpose of this new writing is to convey a peaceful message. I want people to be touched differently, to be able to interpret the messages from which this idea of reinvention of writing.
The third axis I’m working on is “Earth Fragments”. It’s a post-human vision, a story after humans. I imagine another civilization that would arrive on Earth trying to understand what happened through the fragments. These are essentially unstructured forms, examples of the canvas KO and harmony.
What is the flagship work of your creations?
This is the flagship canvas: love story. At that time, I was in a relationship with someone who was hurting me. I was so in love that I did not see that this love was destructive. I wanted to draw a canvas representing our history by illustrating an idyllic love with beautiful colors and harmonious forms. Paradoxically, the last brushstrokes were dots that symbolized the crack of the canvas in two. Not only they mark the completion of the canvas but also the end of this love story. With hindsight I analyzed all of this painting and I became aware that through my drawings I externalized my thoughts. I understood that my relationship was doomed from the beginning because I started the canvas with dots symbolizing separation. This paintng summarizes all my love story.
The understanding of the relationship between this story and the web has been live-saving as it allowed me to get out of the depressed state in which I was locked up.
Where do you work?
I work a lot at home because of the energy emanating from that place. I feel appeased and in tune with myself. There is also a spiritual dimension.