Converse with the Expressive Style of Ludovic Nkoth

The New York based, Cameroonian up-and-coming painter is quickly rising through the ranks as a prominent figurative contemporary artist. Ludovic Nkoth’s compositions introduce textured portraits of figures in his past and present. Through their color sequences, the mixed media paintings in his collection speak volumes about identity and its fluidity; an especially complex concept to tackle as a first generation Cameroonian immigrant to the US. Looking at the collection below, one can’t help but wonder which is more engaging between the expressive lines on the canvas, or the subjects’ deep set eyes on the viewer. Read below to learn more about the rising star of Central Africa, his upbringing and stylistic approach.  

Suspect #1, 2020, Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas, 60 x 48 cm., Courtesy of the Artist

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and when did art first enter your life? 

Well, I was born in Cameroon, West Africa, where I was raised till the age of thirteen. During those years, art came early to me as a necessity.  Due to the fact that we did not have much, I found myself creating the spaces I wanted to see myself in. And a lot of the times this was done by sketching.

Passenger #3, 2020, Acrylic and Mixed Media on Belgium Linen, 60 x 48 cm., Courtesy of the Artist

Has your work always taken on the style it currently embodies? 

Yes and no…, I would say this style is a growing process, it is the same style I’ve been working with but I am now gaining better understanding of my subjects and materials. 

Holding On to Memories, 2020, Acrylic on Canvas, 40 x 30 cm., Courtesy of the Artist

What is your process like? How do you begin a work? 

I usually start with a rough sketch based on ideas I’ve been playing around with. And some other times I go straight to the canvas and figure it out at that moment. The paintings are all in conversation so the ideas are products of recent works. 

Walk us through a day in the studio. 

Well, for the past two months I’ve been working in Spain so my routines at the studio had to be shifted a little. As soon as I get to the studio I usually start the day with music by Fela Kuti. The studio here is a warehouse floor and it gets really cold in there, so the first thing I do is start a fire. Then I usually hang for a while and I let myself be surrounded by the paintings and blank canvases until I am ready to start painting.

Suspect #3, 2020, Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas, 60 x 48 cm., Courtesy of the Artist

From where do you draw inspiration? 

I usually draw inspiration from my personal experiences and everyday life. I also love to travel when I’m creating a new series of works. I do this because I want to allow the spaces that I inhabit to find their way into each piece. 

Tell us about your relationship with texture. What larger questions do you think your work asks? 

I love to explore how texture can change the language of a painting, so while I’m working I use a lot of thick brushes to move as much paint as I can throughout the canvas. I also love to see how different materials/objects can be perceived differently based on the texture they are associated with. 

About the second part of the question, I think my work serves as a conversation starter on topics that are at times hard to talk about.

Blood on the Leaves, 2020, Acrylic on Canvas, 40 x 30 cm., Courtesy of the Artist

If you could have dinner with three major figures, dead or alive, who would it be? 

It would probably be Fela Kuti, Charles White and Sir David Attenborough.

Does your work reference any Art Historical movements? 

Not directly, but if I was to associate it with any I would say my work exists between the figurative expressionism movement and figurative abstraction.

Suspect #2, 2020, Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas, 60 x 48 cm., Courtesy of the Artist

What’s next for you? 

I just finished the works for two solo shows I’ll be having early 2021, if the pandemic allows it. And a few other things I can’t mention just yet. 

At the end of each interview we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love and would like us to interview next. Who would you suggest?

I would definitely recommend John Rivas, he’s a brother to me and also based in New York.

You Can See It In My Eyes, 2020, Watercolor on Paper, 30 x 22.5 cm., Courtesy of the Artist

Jane, 2020, Watercolor on Paper, 16 x 20 cm., Courtesy of the Artist