CORPS DE P@GES - Jean David Nkot The Melrose Gallery, Johannesburg

Jean David Nkot explores the plight of the ‘common man’ in his first solo to be presented in South Africa. The exhibition is accompanied by an exhibition text written by Simon Njami.

This powerful body of paintings navigates the exploitation of the populations of the developing world by those who come in search of wealth, possessions, and power.

The artist feels compelled to bring attention to how the body and nature are often the victims in our search for industrialisation and the belief in a purely capitalistic economic model.

Nkot aims to give a voice to the people who despite their enormous contribution and sacrifice of their own health and wealth remain in the shadows with little say in terms of their future and that of their families, communities, or country.

Vast fortunes are built on their sweat with little thought given to improving their plight as it is in this very poverty, lack of education and subjugation of thought and spirit that they are forced to continue to work for the wealthy and the powerful.

By presenting the figures in his work as contemporary icons, he invites us to reconsider their status, as important and valuable contributors to society and as such we should recognise that their opinions on the future should not be ignored, subjugated, or looked down upon.

The artist has a deep sensitivity towards humanity and nature, and he views them as interdependent and not separate and that the protection of one, enables the conservation of the other. He notes that the capitalists and industrialists not only abuse the poor but also nature and the very -planet that they call home.

“Jean-David Nkot is above all, at least for the moment, a painter. His work, even when it contains elements of abstraction, is essentially figurative, obsessed with the body and its representation. The black body is it necessary to specify it. Or perhaps, after all, it is necessary to present it, because in this detail perhaps nestles a hidden truth: Nkot, since his first paintings, paints and depicts himself”.
– Excerpt from the exhibition text by Simon Njami

In CORPS DE P@GES, Nkot lovingly presents the human form in different poses, each as a living being, each with their own story, each part of contemporary history, and a contributor and window to society.

Bodies speak, they love, they argue, they cry, they despair and throughout they hope for a better future for them and theirs. Nkot calls on us to recognise and respect and value not only our fellow man, but all living things.

The ‘@’ symbol, and the titles of the artworks represent website domains and email addresses thereby bringing further attention to the power of the internet, the role that it plays in controlling society and restricting free thought through the desire to fit in to preconceived notions of what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad.

Nkot was born in Douala, Cameroon, where he still lives and works. It is fitting that his solo CORPS DE P@GES is to be presented in Johannesburg, South Africa. Despite being known as the ‘city of gold’, Johannesburg has one of the highest disparities of income in the world. Informal settlements, where vast portions of the population live in abject poverty, can be found within 10km’s of some of the wealthiest real estate in Africa.

In 2010, he qualified with an A-level in painting at the Institute of Artistic Training of Mbalmayo (IFA) before joining the Institute of Fine Arts Foumban, where he obtained a degree in drawing/painting. In 2017 he joined the Post Master Moving Frontiers organized by the National School of Arts of Paris-Cergy (France) on the theme of borders. Throughout his training in the fine arts of Foumban, he received several artistic distinctions (Best sculptor, installer and painter). Conscious of the value of his elders he is frequently in the workshops of Hervé Youmbi, Salifou Lindou, Jean Jacques Kanté, Pascal Kenfack and Ruth Belinga.

The exhibition runs at The Melrose Gallery at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg from 11 November until 18 December 2022. For those unable to attend the exhibition in person, you will be able to access the online viewing room on www.themelrosegallery.com from 12 November.

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