The artistic world has always appeared to me as a closed world, dedicated to experts and great minds. However, this apparent closure did not prevent me from going to museums and various exhibitions to gaze upon hundreds and hundreds of paintings (no matter the reputation enjoyed by the painter), and to discuss topics such as the importance of art in our society.
Yet, as a young Black girl living in Paris, my relationship with art has always been cold, in the sense that art never fully satisfied me. Indeed, art, which, in a manner of speaking represents what is said to be beautiful appeared to me as something exclusively dedicated to white people. Growing up in a society in which white skin seemed to be the norm, I quickly felt the urge to look for representation everywhere: television, cinema, books, sports, fashion… However, there was still one field in which Black people, especially Black people of African descent seemed to be absent, non-existent, excluded or, at best, misrepresented. Hypersexualized or fetishized, it is through social media that I have been able to rediscover myself, my culture and my community. This need to feel represented is probably one of the reasons why I was so concerned and moved by Comoe Josue’s exhibition La Lutte (The Struggle).
At the heart of a multicultural, diverse and active Paris, the artist-painter Comoe Josue stands as evidence of this culture. At 23 years old, this young artist of Ivorian origin held his first exhibition in Paris in May 2018. After completing a preparatory class in which he had to conform himself to the hardness of the system, Josue managed, by himself, to enrol at the Art Déco, the best school in France for art and design.
Subject to discrimination and racist clichés, Josue, talented and independent, finally decided to leave after being the victim of Islamophobic statements after the terrorist attacks in Paris. In parallel with his studies, Josue has been in the modelling sector for years, Spotted at 16 years old by an international modelling agency, he quickly realized that his features – dark skin and nappy hair – weren’t considered as beautiful and saleable and that they were only accepted under a certain form. Josue, who took part in many fashion shows of the world’s leading designers, such as Chanel and Moncler, was once again confronted with hyper-sexualization. It was his desire to be fairly represented that pushed him to start painting his community. His anger towards the academic world allowed him to learn about himself and his artistic skills, as he began to create vast amounts of pen drawings.
We, as viewers have the ability to understand the passion that nourished Josue throughout his artistic path. On striking black or yellow backgrounds, the artist’s characters aim at drawing the stereotypes imposed on Black people by breaking them. Suspicious, intimidating and majestic, the bystanders quickly feel like intruders in a nebulous universe that is not our own. The painting that moved me the most is entitled, Moon. Representing a black woman in profile on a midnight blue background, it looks like Comme Josue aims at representing Black women’s fragility, whereas they are often described as strong and indestructible. What struck me the most in this painting, but also in Comoe’s art in general, is his permanent desire to sublimate people of color and to give them the space they need to embrace their splendour. To ensure that, Comoe Josue grants a lot of importance in the way he uses light and colors in order to give life to his muses.
Josue, who has already settled into an original and striking style finds it difficult to explain what he wants to do now. That’s because his art is already so striking and original that we tend to forget that he is only in his early twenties. One thing is certain, his future projects will always be soaked with activism.
What surprised me in Josue’s art is the fact that his art is never exclusive – he allows and encourages the viewer to come at him in order to exchange, to debate, to understand. I sincerely think that this ability to be inspired by his people is what will guarantee him a bright future in the artistic world.