Artists' portrait: Raymond Yves Kono

What is your background?

I hold a degree in Visual Arts and Art History obtained at the University of Yaoundé 1. I followed a training course in screen printing for three years, at the end of which succeeded workshops and inspiring meetings.

Why did you decide to become an artist?

I would say that it all started with childhood memories, my ability to reproduce and shape the things I feel and imagine, most often spontaneously.

When we went on vacation to our village, I was about 6 or 7 years old, I saw my great-grandmother who made clay jars and decorated them with wooden twigs. I had noticed that his eyes were all white. It was later that I understood that she was blind...

I watched more and more cartoons on television such as Kimbo or Rahan, and having had comic books very early on allowed me to practice reproducing illustrations. In elementary school I just copied drawings. But once in high school, being confronted with different subjects such as history, geography, philosophy, allowed me to transcribe in images what I felt after a reading. Also, being a subscriber to the French Cultural Center (now Institut Français) gave me the opportunity to have access to books on art, to attend exhibitions and other artistic and cultural activities.

Triple pensée

When I got to university, I rubbed shoulders with professors who told us about their experiences in the visual arts. It should already be remembered that the "Plastic Arts and History of Art" sector sounded strange to many people at that time. I remember an exchange with a relative who wanted to know what I was studying and whose reaction sufficiently proved the perception that those around me could have at that time.

- Relative : Which courses are you following?
- Raymond Y.K : Plastic arts.
- Relative : Do you make the plastics?

It makes you laugh, but it also hides a deep depression in youth, and even parents. After that question the next one was, "and with this license you will enter which national contest?", and so on... To me university seemed to be a place of frustration and despair for many people, but it was not the case for me. And as the eldest of the family, all these trials led me to this formula which guided my choice: "To make my passion, a profession"...

Tell us about your work?

My work has evolved and intermixed from time to time. I go from collage to acrylic, oil paint and cutout. But for several years now, I have limited myself to acrylic.

I start with the drawing. Once the drawing is on the canvas, I add the colors according to my mood. Most often bright colors. The forms with Human characteristics are spirits, which I named "Ntshi-Ntshim" (in the Eton language). They convey codes of Fang statuary (all forest peoples living in Central Africa) half-child, half-adult, neither too long nor too short. To this duality is added the avoidance of the gaze, which I symbolize by the heads turned or thrown back. Part of this artistic process echoes the thought of Sartre when he said:

"The gaze of the other judges me; hell is the other; The gaze of the other objectifies me; And for fear of dying of boredom, I prefer to die laughing ..."

Sweet time

I create scenes of irony, I play with the clothing (variegated boxer shorts, T-shirts, socks, cap, kepi), some spirits do not have shoes on one foot, sometimes I also present them with a sock and bare feet. By this way of painting I want to translate the lack. It seems that you can't have everything in life! In fact, it is the combination of these elements that gives the result showcased by my works. And as an artist, I like to put them in a space where they are levitating.

What are your artistic inspirations?

I am inspired by my reading, and especially my musical tastes. There are also all my daily experiences, good and not so good, that I try to convert to my advantage. Remember, I'd rather die laughing than boredom...

Colors are important in your work, what does it mean?

I see color as a remedy, a medicine. In general, the color relieves my sorrows. It's my way of doing my therapy ... Color is a solution!


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