The contemporary African art market is so hot right now. Young African artists are breaking through into the international art space and appreciators and buyers the world over are taking note.
As Africa’s art scene grows significantly, talent is springing out of all corners of the continent. Amongst them all, is an exciting and an enigmatic young man from the Côte d’Ivoire called Abdoulaye Diarrassouba or Aboudia – as he is better known – who is already being pegged as the ‘Kanye West of contemporary African art’ due to his unmistakable raw talent; his confidence in his name and work; and his love for sexy, raven-haired, curvy women! (Check his Instagram @Aboudia for more.)
Aboudia’s work is enticing as it is harrowing, and although bold and colourful, one cannot help but sense the darkness and death displayed in his art. He survived the Côte d’Ivoire’s brutal civil war by turning the basement in which he hid into his ‘art studio’. Although a stark contrast to the life he now lives (glitz, glamour and cars… again, check his instagram!) Aboudia’s inspiration remains the streets of Abidjan and the kids that call them home… like he used to.
Aboudia’s art works are gaining major attention in London, Paris and New York and he has exhibited at the Jack Bell Gallery, the Saatchi Gallery, 1:54 Contemporary African Art fair among many others.
Definitely ‘one to watch’, I spoke with Aboudia, the artist himself, about war, street life and artistic inspiration.
So when did you realise you were meant to be an artist?
I was born with a passion for art and started painting at a very early age, so I have always been an artist.
Was there an artist or artists that influenced you during your earlier career?
I was influenced by the graffiti done by the street kids of the Abobo, Yopougon and Treichville districts in Abidjan as I grew up.
You lived during the civil war in Ivory coast – is it fair to say that your work is a reflection of that time?
My work is actually not a reflection of the civil war, I was just a witness to the tragedies that were occurring in my country. I just happened to be there at that time.
Do you believe it is important as an artist to document such atrocities?
Yes, most certainly, because an artist acts as a witness of time.
Did painting help you heal?
Painting has helped me digest the atrocities. My weapon has been the painting brush, and the battlefield, my canvas.
Your paintings have been described as haunting and yet also beautiful
I want to try to transform the bad into good and sadness into happiness. The streets are my world, and I wish to make the world better through my paintings.
Now that the war is over, are there any other subjects and themes that you explore?
My paintings and works related to the civil war were just something I did during and for that specific time. My theme and inspiration has always been the children of the streets of Abidjan so now that the war is over, I have returned to my original inspiration.
Where is your studio based?
My studio is still in Abidjan although sometimes I work in New York.
Any future exhibitions or projects coming up in New York, London or wherever else?
I have an exhibition currently on at Art Twenty One in Lagos, Nigeria that began on 13th February; another exhibition will be in New York at Ethan Cohen Fine Arts from February 25 – April 9 2016; and you can also find my works at the Jack Bell Gallery in London.
What has been your biggest artistic achievement?
I don’t believe my biggest artistic achievement has happened yet, I always hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
How much does it cost to buy one of your paintings?
For me, the value of my paintings is sentimental not material. So if you love my work and it touches your heart then my work is yours.
What are your thoughts of the contemporary African art market? Do you believe it is something that will grow and help nurture artists such as yourself?
I think that the contemporary art market is evolving and opening doors to new artists, and we have good African artists. The change and openness in the market and the growth of the contemporary African art market is what has helped me and so I hope it continues to help and include many more African artists.
You seem to now have a wonderful lifestyle – are contemporary artists the new rock stars of West Africa?
The good life that one has is not about the material wealth but is about the respect and consideration that other people give you regardless of your race, or religion, or ethnic group.
Other than yourself, if you could pick one artist to have his or her work in your home – who would it be?
It would still be Aboudia…
Aboudia is represented by the Jack Bell Gallery