Ivorian Expressionism: Interview with Aboudia

From 'The Children Series', 2013

From ‘The Children Series’, 2013

Aboudia is an Ivorian artist gaining considerable renown for his dynamic and unflinchingly expressive paintings. Now living and working between New York and Ivory Coast, Aboudia was still living in Abidjan when violence broke out in 2011. During this time the artist took refuge in a basement and began to paint some of his most striking pieces about the conflict that raged outside. These are not quiet paintings, they are extremely animated and energetic and have been frequently likened to Basquiat’s style of painting. Aboudia describes his work as ‘nouchi’, a dialect in Western Africa that mixes French with various African languages, and in this spirit his paintings jostle and hum with chattering figures and crowded streets.

His paintings have already been featured in the Saatchi Gallery’s exhibition ‘Pangea: New Art from Africa and Latin America’ last year and he will be taking part in part two of the exhibition this spring. Elsewhere he has been bought by collectors from Switzerland to Israel and most famously by the American basketball player Alex Rodriguez (better known as A-Rod) and achieved impressive prices in Bonham’s ‘Africa Now’ sale.

It looks like Aboudia will be receiving more and more of the attention his work so rightly deserves.

I asked the artist about his work and its origins:

When do you first remember being drawn to painting?

Very early around the age of 7 , while living in a tiny town in the east of Ivory Coast called Abengourou.

Is painting a cathartic, positive process for you?

Yes, it is definitively a positive process, even a healing tool. It only and always brings positive vibes.

Do you believe it is important that art is used to show the reality of atrocities (like the violence in Abidjan in March 2011) to the outside world?

At some point yes, because the violence won’t lead to anything , but a painting reflecting the stupidity , and moreover indicating to involved parties that it doesn’t make sense to fight always makes it through and may make one think twice before getting into any type of violence.

Your paintings are heavily layered, could you describe how you create your pieces?

My technique is acrylic , collage and oil on canvas. Then the inspiration guides me for the layering process.

I have read that you found art school a frustrating and perhaps slightly suffocating experience. Did you find it too prescriptive an environment in which to work?

Yes and no , but I will always advise learning at an art school. If gifted you add to that the basics that are taught at an art school and that is always a plus.

Which artists influence your work?

I’m not really influenced by any artists, since I have my own style but I like works by a good bunch of artists , such as Julie Mehretu , Wangechi Mutu , Chris Ofili , Malick Sidibe just to name a few.



When do you feel inspired to paint?

I’m always inspired by something, I work pretty much on social aspects of things.

You now live between New York and the Ivory Coast, how have you found your reception as an artist in New York?

New York has given me a warm welcome , thanks to my New York based agent Issiaka Toure of TIS FINE ARTS who manages all my business relationships , letting me concentrate on creation. Better rather than a business man I’m an artist and prefer to segregate tasks of creation and business management.

Your work is frequently compared to Basquiat, is this a comparison you like?

Jean Michel Basquiat is Jean Michel Basquiat . Aboudia is Aboudia. A couple of years ago in Brooklyn, New York I met his late father Gerard who [has since] passed away , he told me work hard and you may find an avenue. I stand with that.

Some truly incredible work of yours was included in Saatchi’s ‘Pangea’ exhibition and you will also be featuring in the second half of the exhibition later this year. Do you think that an exhibtion as high profile as Pangea has enabled contemporary African art to gain more of the attention it deserves?

Pangea is definitely a great opportunity for exposure for African art. That’s definitely a good idea of Charles Saatchi’s to do that.

What are your plans for 2015 and beyond?

In 2015 I will exhibit in the 2 art Basels: Miami and Basel , Art Stage Singapore , in London at 1.54 , with Jack Bell and in Copenhagen starting Febraury 27th with Mikael Andersen Gallery. Plus I’m finishing some commissions for some US private collectors.

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