Ludovic Nkoth

History, power and identity redressed in painted portraits of defiance and distortion.

Ludovic Nkoth sat on a chair in his studio with his hands in his lap
Ludovic Nkoth crouching on the floor surrounded by paints and pens as he adds details to a painting on the floor
various coloured paints layered over one another on a palette
7 images

Ludovic Nkoth was born in 1994 in Cameroon, and now lives and works in New York, USA.

Career

In 2020, the artist made his Art Basel debut with painting Blood on the Leaves - presented by renowned Los Angeles gallery François Ghebaly.

Did you know?

Prompted by his own turbulent experience of moving to America as a child, Nkoth spent several months living and practicing in Spain in 2021, so as to better understand the lives of immigrants arriving to Europe from Africa. From this period emerged a series of paintings titled You Sea Us.

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Practice overview

Nkoth’s blend of figuration and abstraction embodies his experience of growing up between Cameroon and the United States. He uses acrylic paint for his canvases, attracted to its fast-drying quality which guides his use of brisk, rhythmic brush strokes inspired by music he listens to while painting. Layering fabric and sand onto canvas along with fluid washes of pigment, Nkoth creates expressive tributes to his family and friends. Recalling the work of artists from the Harlem Renaissance like Charles White as well as European expressionists like Egon Schiele, Nkoth’s paintings combine influences from the modern canon of portraiture with traditional pattern, colour and dress from his Cameroonian heritage. He also draws from the street life of New York, where he lives and works. Investigating colonialism, war and displacement, Nkoth reveals their profound effect on personal and collective psychologies.

Nkoth’s paintings are a celebration of Black pride and familial resilience. Small family (2018) is part of Nkoth’s Roots series, and shows a family of four wearing greens, blues, reds and yellows in traditional ‘toghu’ dress. The calm, rhythmic pattern of the wallpaper evokes the warm familiarity of shared domestic space, and contrasts the energetic abstract brushstrokes used to create the figures. Blurred and distorted, the family’s faces present a visual expression of the elusive memories from which the artist paints. As a whole, the group portrait speaks to Nkoth’s desire for familial unity and profound appreciation of collective cultural pride.

Nkoth’s paintings are political since his very existence is politicised. Liminal experiences between the West’s systemic racism and the wake of colonial forces in Cameroon are the foundations of his practice. His unflinching confrontation of events like the civil conflict in Cameroon and the migrant crisis in Europe with paintings like The Fight For Ambazo (2019) and The Last Note (2020) illuminate the realities of the African Diaspora - dispersing the smokescreen used by the West to erase history and maintain power. Drawing from his dual experience as both insider and outsider, Nkoth uses the canvas to repair these histories by refusing to let dominant powers turn away from the wreckage of their own making.

“The first thing I want the viewers to take from the work is the beauty of the Black skin and the things this skin stands for.”Ludovic Nkoth