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JP Mika

JP Mika
Born in Kinshasa in 1980. Lives and works in Kinshasa.

Mika has a great gift for drawing and started out at the very young age of 13 painting advertising boards to earn a little money. JP Mika is from a poor family and started to study business while trying to generate income and put money to one side. He finally went to the Academy of Fine Arts late on in life in 2005. He graduated in 2007, convinced that he had the potential to succeed. Chéri Chérin took him under his wing and gave him the opportunity to travel abroad for the first time to exhibit his work in Bilbao in 2008.

Mika’s artistic development then got underway, as he gradually forged his own pathway, freeing himself from the influence of his teacher. He slowly left behind narrative figure painting, switching his attention to simplifying compositions. In 2011, he started his « Deux temps, deux modes » series, in which he compared past and present fashions, depicting animals in line with the popular style which is fond of animal portrayals, and, increasingly, humans. Duality can sometimes be seen in the self-same figure, who is half depicted at their present age and half in their youth. Finally, as of 2013, he developed a liking for portraits. Mika opts for highly colourful backgrounds, using floral print fabrics, which call to mind the wallpapers of yesteryear. These portrayals with a deliberately old-fashioned feel evoke the black and white portrait photographs taken in the 1960s by Seydou Keita, Malick Sidibé and Jean Depara. In a way, JP Mika adds colour to them, albeit not without a dash of derision or nostalgia, and even gentleness.
He also includes allusions to Congolese sapeurs and is happy to depict himself, with the skilfully controlled extravagance unique to Congolese artists. He sketches himself uncompromisingly but without any false restraint. After all, he too is an interesting subject, the child of N’Djili who gets the public to bear witness to his dream. The dream came true in 2015: firstly in Kinshasa, where Mika held his first solo exhibition (JP Mika!, at the Texaf-Bilembo Cultural Centre, January-March 2015), and then in Paris, where he triumphed at the Cartier Foundation’s Beauté Congo exhibition (July 2015-January 2016).

> CV

JP Mika: Photo Album

Interview with JP Mika at his studio - Kinshasa, March 2015