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Artwork - The Kid - An American Pastoral

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Artwork - The Kid - An American Pastoral

Hyper-realistic, bigger-than-life portraits and life-size sculptures confront the audience with deeply personal stories that expose the injustice in America and beyond in many democracies around the world today and make us question the current evolution of mankind’s history. The socially critical exhibition intends to open up our minds – ultimately, enlightening a more compassionate, understanding world.

THE KID questions how the recent and current social and political history seems to repeat itself in too many countries and the stance today’s youth will decide to take.

Q: What projects are you working on right now and how do they fit into your body of work to date?
It’s a very exciting period, I’m working on new large paintings and sculptures for my next solo show in May next year at the Paris location of Gallery Templon (also representing Kehinde Wiley, Gregory Crewdson, Jan Fabre, David Lachapelle, Pierre et Gilles, editor's note). It will mix elements of my previous works and new ones to create an even more immersive experience.

Q: Most of your work, to me, feels like you are trying to wake up the observer, to open his or her eyes. What is it you want to show and why is that important?

Yes, I think art should be about humanity, about society. It needs to reflect its time, to question the public, to spark the debate. Make the people aware, by holding up a mirror to them. And it has probably never been so urgent since the last cultural revolution of the 60’s, don’t you think?

Q: What role does provocation play in your work? Do you consider it a constructive way of communicating?

What I care about is that my work speaks to everyone, from the man in the street to the seasoned collectors. I believe art should be for everyone, just like education and freedom. Not the right color match for above the sofa but “a weapon of war”, as Picasso said with his masterpiece Guernica in response to the 1937 fascist bombing of the city!

Q: What do you want the audience to experience when they visit your exhibitions? How do you want to make them feel? What do you want them to think about/reconsider?

I hope I can question the audience and show them a new perspective, maybe a poetic perspective. I’ve always been attracted by this line in The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: “behind every exquisite thing lies something tragic”. I think this is very much, what all of my works have in common.

Q: It seems a lot of the people you portray are around the same age. What do you consider to be the deciding years in a human’s life?

Too many people grow up that's the real problem, they forget what it’s like to be a kid, they look down upon others, build walls to protect themselves from differences and close their eyes to obvious problems in our society. So it’s more a question of mindset than number of years, that’s why I use the nickname THE KID, in rebellion against any form of conservatism.

Q: In the ARTE TV portrait you say: ‘My goal is to capture these kids in their defining moment, between innocence and corruption. The moment in which we choose to leave our childhood and enter the world and decide what we stand for and what we believe in.’ What was your defining moment?

It was probably when I left school; I hated school, its small-minded authority and the bullying against anyone who does not fit the norm. I did not want to conform to its cookie-cutter spirit and I did not fit the mold, what generated a lot of struggle for me. But, in the end, not to fit in was a blessing and still is!

Q: You also said: ‘I think we have reached a point at which young people must revolt.’ Revolt against what exactly? And how?

Yes, questions we believed part of the past are all of a sudden urgent again: What will the future of our young generation look like? Will it be in the streets? Will we speak up? Will we defend our civil rights? Will we surrender to fear or choose courage? Will we still dream of tomorrow? “Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation” as Coretta Scott King said (civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr., editor’s note).

Q: What do you consider to be your very first work of art?

I couldn’t say exactly, as far as I can remember, even as a child, I’ve always felt compelled to draw, paint and sculpt things, to create my own world to escape in.

Q: What can you tell me about the origin and meaning of I Believe In The Promised Land?

This painting, as my latest sculpture (The State I Am In, In The Consciousness Of A Country's Empty Mind – both works currently exhibited at Chicago 21st Century Museum, editor’s note), have the same sparking point; the 2017 Charlottesville’s events, when neo-Nazis -opposing the taking-down of the equestrian statue of General Robert E Lee, a historical defender of Afro-American slavery- assaulted young civil-rights counter-protesters and drove into 35 of them killing a young woman.

Q: There’s a lot of references to American culture in your work. What does that imagery represent for you and why does it fit so well in your art?

For me the US is a powerful icon of duality between ideal and reality, its imagery symbolizes the American dream currently falling apart as collective social dreams in most countries, what makes it the perfect universal symbol of the social “Clair-obscure” we are in.

Q: The Future Is Old, I Saw The Sun Begin To Dim and Marvin will be exhibited in MOCO. Starting when? How do these three works relate to each other? What’s the story they tell together?

These paintings and others, as also some of my sculptures part of the exhibition, talk about our young generation in these troubled times, I want to question the audience about social determinism, the thin frontier between innocence and corruption, the inequality of chances, or the fading sentiment of right and wrong in our modern societies. The show opens in November, MOCO has a great approach to art and how it can change things, the permanent artists exhibited from Warhol or Basquiat to Banksy or Kaws have had a great influence on me since I was a kid actually.

Q: On which countries are you focusing right now and what role do the Netherlands play in that equation? Of which countries do you own passports? What place(s) do you call home?

That’s kind of strange to me, with my origins and the multiple places I’ve lived in, I do not really relate to countries, boundaries or passports, on the contrary. I feel home where I work, eat, sleep… and walk my dogs! If I have to, I’d say I feel European or even more « Earthean », isn’t it the only thing that really matters there is no planet B after all no?

Q: How do your work life and private life relate to each other?

My work is my life, my works are me. They reflect my fears, my hopes, my questions and the injustice I struggle with.

Q: You're a supporter of Human Rights Watch. Why? How did you get involved?

I met with them when I was working on big Bic drawings about US minors sentenced as adults to life in prison without parole, they’ve done extensive research on this injustice to try and change the law, I immediately decided to support them and since then I’ve discovered the great work they do to denounce all Human Rights abuses everywhere in the world.

Q: What do you consider to be the most important human rights issue right now and why?

The soaring of all forms of fears, which leads most “large” countries, intentionally or not, to undermine progressively individual liberties and democratic safeguards under the alibi of the security of the masses, both Minority Report and the first scene of Vanilla Sky coming now to reality at the same time…

Q: What’s your ‘point on the horizon’? In other words: what big goal are you working towards?

"¡No Pasarán!" (they shall not pass, editor’s note), as Spanish and British anti-fascists were shouting, fighting Franco in Madrid and the UK Union of Fascists on Cable Street in the London East End in 1936, history is repeating, in other words « The Future Is Old »… precisely the title of my new series which will be on show at MOCO Museum!