From Liberia To Lagos, This French Artist Has A Knack For Creating Unconventional Imagery
François Beaurain, a self taught mix media artist, is a multifaceted creator of collages, sculpture work, drawings and photography. When he's not fighting climate change, he captures the uniqueness of life (mostly in West Africa) and his daily occurrences.
The French born image maker, widely known for his animated art, was one of the exhibiting photographers during LagosPhoto Festival (2015) themed Designing Futures, where he showed GIFs from his series Monrovia animated shot in 2014 in Liberia.
Creating GIFs came by chance to the artist – he admits to an insatiable obsession with repetition, loops and endless movements... after purchasing his first DSLR in 2013 and playing with the burst mode, he pursued the idea of making small animations.
"First as a 'geek' I wanted to try and develop new GIFs and new types of images. On the other hand I was also fascinated with how I was able to show this country (usually depicted as a war zone by most photographers). People were also so responsive and happy to participate that it became like a game. I created Monrovia animated in four months”.
Monrovia animated is currently on show at CCCB in Barcelona as part of the Making Africa exhibition until August 28.
His residency at the African Artists’ Foundation last year allowed for uninhibited exploration of the hustle and bustle of the city. Upon arrival, the possibilities were endless... In the series Welcome to the promised land, shot in the city's poorer region – Makoko, he says the title is "somehow ironic" when one knows of the floating neighbourhood's living conditions. With thousands of people moving to Lagos everyday and with hopes to succeed, François also adds the contrary:
“The title WTTPL is somehow depicting the expectations of people hitting this megalopolis and are in quest for a better future”.
GIFs and photographs of individuals make up the body of the series. Welcome to the promise land is part of the group show Lointains souvenirs – Exposition collective at Gallery 127 in Marrakesh, on show until June 15.
In Lagos, people were less open to giving him time of day – he felt people were always running or looking stressed – though with some convincing and negotiation the animations were produced. François will be showing more of his GIFs made in Nigeria as part of the group exhibition, Dey Your Lane (a Lagos expression in Pidgin English meaning ‘mind your own business’) curated by LagosPhoto Director Azu Nwagbogu at Bozar in Brussels. The show runs from June 17 – September 4.
The artists' cloning passion took form when he discovered a city covered with Nollywood posters (on walls, bridges or fences) in the streets of Monrovia. His fascination for the inexpensive and colourful material used to make the collages came rapidly to him – the posters which have a very limited lifespan are regularly dumped by DVD shop owners, a bonus for François who collects, cuts and rearranges the prolific iconography of Nigerian cinema.
Though he’s yet to find his favourite Nollywood film, the artists' interest lies in the extravagance of the abundant posters and how they depict Africa. The posters which cover a wide range of themes is made by Africans for Africans.
"For me, Nollywood is the symbol of the richness of the African culture that is completely unknown and under evaluated in the western world.”
The nOllywOOd collages will be shown for the first time in Europe at the International Festival of Photography in Arles. For more information visit the Les Rencontres d’Arles website.
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By Otsholeng Poo, publish on 18/05/2016