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Interview with Steve Bandoma


Interview with Steve Bandoma for Swab Gate by Eva Barois de Caevel (October 2015)

S. Bandoma's solo show installation at Swab Art Fair
S. Bandoma's solo show installation at Swab Art Fair
EBC: When we met in Paris in June you explained to me that your style — this fusion of different techniques that allows you to arrange surprising images — has been perceived as something extremely new when you presented your work, for the first time, in Kinshasa. Why, according to you?
 
SB: Yes, it’s true! I think this could be explained by three things:
First, the practice of collage on paper and of paper and the use of ink was something almost nonexistent in Kinshasa. I wanted to exalt paper as a valuable contemporary support of expression, a material ignored by many artists in Kinshasa where the idea that if you are a painter, you must use oil painting on a traditional canvas is very deeply rooted.
Another thing is my strong will to escape the many stereotypes that still exist in contemporary art produced in Africa. I have the feeling that in Africa, and specifically in Congo, artists feel encouraged to develop a form of aesthetic that could still be considered as « typically African ». I am looking for a more « balanced aesthetic » and, almost, a personal one. That is also why I tried to avoid the use of some materials.
The last thing is maybe the intellectual commitment that I try to convey through my work. I was trained with the idea that an artist is somebody who masters the harmony of colors, who masters the art of perspective… But I needed to develop a strong and convincing philosophy that could strengthen my art…
 
EBC: Can you explain to me how you imagined and put in practice this fusion of different techniques?
 
SB: During the time I spent in South Africa, I was in a specific state of mind: training myself professionally and experiencing an identity quest. I was interested in the American avant-garde. I tried different mediums like installation, a bit of photography, performance… I was also inspired by many African artists like Barthélemy Toguo, Wangechi Mutu, or William Kentridge, to name a few. I think the will to melt different techniques you mention could be seen as the fruit of theses exchanges, of my personal and artistic path, and, most of all, of my curiosity. The choices of an artistic « genre » and of a medium are some of the more crucial ones for an artist; it will define him. I am a perfectionist and I tried to define very precisely a technique that corresponded to me.
 
EBC: As you know, I decided to invite « painters » for this first edition of SWAB Gate, « painters » understood in a very broad way, specifically when it comes to your work.
How do you position yourself in relation to painting?

 
SB: First of all I must say that I don’t consider myself as a painter, but simply as an artist. Contemporary art offers an incommensurable freedom and I can’t work only with painting. I love the facts that some mediums produce great things when put together and it is something I love to explore.
 
EBC: Did you paint in a more traditional way at first?
What are you relations with an aesthetic proper to the place where you produce your art, i.e. Kinshasa? And how do you position yourself in the artistic scene of Kinshasa, in aesthetical terms?

 
SB: During my training at the Fine arts school in Kinshasa, we learnt how to paint in a traditional way, but we were critical about this narrow academic system — that is still there, unfortunately — and had the desire to propose something else. We created for instance a collective, that was hosted by the Alliance Française: we called the movement « Librisme », then « Librisme synergie ». During my academic training I already started to experiment with collage and I liked it a lot. But the style of collage that became a key in my aesthetic is something I developed in South Africa.
 
EBC: What are the materials you use to obtain these very different textures that are present in your work? I have the feeling that this texture is pictorial in a way. It evokes some features of pictoriality: drips, stains…?
 
SB: Concerning the variation of textures you can see in some of my works I would rather say that it is something that is produced by my unsatisfied creative mind! I use Canson paper, cut papers from popular magazines (with various textures themselves), toilet paper, ink drops and stains, or cotton pads! I need these different textures to create hybrid characters, bizarre ones.
 
EBC: You showed me recent works that were an evocation of the colonial history: are your works still related to political, historical, or topical questions?
 
SB: Art is something dynamic, man and society are moving, and so is the artist obviously. The link between my work and my society is present in the themes I choose to evoke. For instance, I sometimes want to evoke things related to Congo or Africa. It was the case with the series entitled "Lost Tribe" (2012): at this time I had the wish to revisit African culture and aesthetics through our art history, through the masks and ancient statues… I tried to contextualize these objects through a contemporary aesthetic that is my own and by adding a touch of humor and provocation like I usually love to do. But yes, most of my work is related to historical, political and topical questions as you said.
 
EBC: What do you have in mind these days, what are the projects you would like to realize?
 
SB: I love to surprise people regularly. I try to produce new series, to push my creativity. I have the feeling that I have a lot to give, that I need to hurry! I am inspired by this latin sentence "Ars longa vita brevis": I would like it to be the title and state of mind of my next solo exhibition, that I would like to present in Kinshasa first.
 
EBC: Many thanks Steve!
 
SB: Thank you Eva!