28 / 04 / 2015

Barthélémy Toguo, an artist from the Collection showcased at the Venice Biennale


Very few African artists can say they enjoy international recognition, but Barthélémy Toguo is one of them. The man has an imposing presence, with a cleanly-shaved head and an impressively intense stare that implies a need to interact with others. He immediately expresses his commitment by saying that “my approach is built solidly around the coherence of critical research started in 1996 with the Transits, The New World Climax in 2000, Purifications and Head above Water in 2004, Climbing Down in 2005 and The Time in 2011. My formal suggestions, my ethical approach and my aesthetic vocabulary all come together in the long-term to Go towards the Other, the Others, through empathy; at heart, what drives me in my creative work is this aim to empathise.” This committed, passionate artist leaves no one indifferent. Upon meeting him, you immediately notice the interior flame that drives him, constantly aware, alert and sensitive. He strives to know who you are and what you think. The artist examines the world we live in, taking its pulse. He is a living seismograph, measuring, capturing and transforming the products of our era. He records, while filtering and selecting. He turns his gaze to our society and his visions and eclectic forms (drawings, paintings, installations and performances) offer up his own perception and point of view. He singles out and depicts the contortions and compromises, the writhing and changing of our now globalised world. He is an “artivist”.
Barthélémy Toguo will be exhibiting at this year’s Venice Biennale, where he will present a single, large installation of 75 wooden sculptures representing giant administrative stamps bearing inscribed sentences or fragments of writing on exile, migration, urban violence, militarisation and new illnesses. Examples include “make love not war” and “we are all the children of immigrants”, with all the subjects being unflinchingly contemporary. “It’s a look at what’s happening in our biggest cities, at the current political situation with the militarisation of urban police and armed civilians, etc. These are voices that echo what populations are going through.” Toguo went on to say that “the ‘Urban Requiem’ installation contemplates our contemporary destinies. It’s a cry, a special mass, or even a ceremony to honour the memory of those who endure injustice, the matrix of all suffering across our world. In Memoriam. I used ‘Urban Requiem’ to carry out this journey, and to give substance to the social analysis, armed with slogans, signs, shouts, sobbing, laughter, prayers and the sentences meted out on a thundering people”. If you find yourself in Venice this summer, there is no excuse for missing this installation. Its visual messages alone are worth the detour! And visitors will realise the true depth of Toguo’s reflections as he adds that “life is beauty that stands with ugliness, solitude with suffering. I am interested in all human feeling. Everywhere, and always.”

Upcoming events from the artist: 

Montreal – Canada - QUEBEC
At the Samuel Lallouz gallery (1455, rue Sherbrooke Ouest, bureau 233), until 30 June

Venice Biennale – ITALY

9 May 2015 – 22 November 2015
Barthélémy Toguo
All the World's Futures
Urban Requiem

Château de Tanlay - FRANCE 
6 June 2015 – 20 September 2015
Barthélémy Toguo
Les diables et les dieux

Societe Generale’s Collection 
Three of the artist’s works to be discovered during the visits