Ludovic Nkoth

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

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

Ludovic Nkoth blurs figuration and abstraction in expressive tributes to history, family and friends. Acrylic paint is his material of choice, attracted to its fast-drying quality which enables brisk, rhythmic brushstrokes inspired by music - which he always listens to in the studio. He also layers fabric and sand onto canvas, along with fluid washes of pigment. References to artists from the Harlem Renaissance like Charles White as well as European expressionists like Egon Schiele combine with traditional pattern, colour and dress from the artist’s Cameroonian heritage. Street life in his hometown of New York is also a key influence for the works. Celebrating Black pride and resilience, the compelling compositions explore memory, identity and history through an acutely personal lense.

Nkoth’s paintings are political since his life has been politicised by powers beyond his control. Namely, growing up between recent civil wars in Cameroon largely the result of British and French colonial rule in the country until the 1960s; and systemic racism in the United States, an aftermath of the transatlantic slave trade. His unflinching confrontation of violence illuminates the devastating ongoing effects of colonialism. The Fight For Ambazo (2019) for example depicts Cameroonian soldiers, while Lighthouse (2020) depicts a boat full of people from the migrant crisis in Europe. Drawing from his dual experience as both ‘insider’ and ‘outsider,’ ‘Westerner’ and ‘non-Westerner,’ Nkoth uses the canvas to acknowledge and repair painful realities - both personal and collective - with each affirmative brushstroke.

“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