Interview // Jean David Nkot // May 2020

Posted by Michaëla Hadji-Minaglou on

Featured in our online exhibition "Origines", Jean David Nkot's work explores the fight of the body against the territory through the pattern of a map. He told us more about his artistic practice and the messages he wants to convey through his canvases. 


Jean David Nkot the Shadows of Space

Jean David Nkot, The Shadows of Space #16, 70x60 cm

Indian ink, silkscreen printing and post on canvas

You often talk about the concept of “grey zone.” What is, for you, the grey zone today? How do you deal with it in your work?
I work a lot on the concept of grey zone. I borrowed this concept to Primo Lévi. For him, the grey zone was the relationship between the executioner and the victim, a relationship of dominant party over the dominated party. I use this concept in my work by applying it to the migratory question and the human condition during this movement. For me, the grey zone is what is between the point of departure and the point of arrival. This is this zone that I want to depict. I deal with it in my work through the relation between space and the character I paint. The first zone to be considered is the space of departure. The middle zone is symbolized by the character standing in the foreground of my work. The last zone, which is the zone of arrival, is the dream that my characters carries during their trip. Thus, there is a relation between space, which is symbolized by the map, and the individual who is standing in the middle of this grey zone.

Did Paris Cergy’s "Moving Frontiers" program play an important role in the progression of your work?
The "Moving Frontiers" program has been important in the evolution of my work. As a result of this project, the theme of migration imposed itself on me. It also opened me the doors of one of the most important residences of my career at la Cité Internationale des Arts. The latter also gave birth to the project "The undesirables" that continues with the new series "The Shadows of Space".

Do you consider yourself a politically engaged artist?
I would not go as far as saying that I am an engaged committed artist. What I do know is that before being an artist, I am a human being who lives in a society, in a space in a changing world. Thus, transformation is a subject that speaks to me and concerns me. I want things to change and I need to talk about it, make this problem visible and create dialogue spaces to discuss it.
Art offers us the possibility and the means, both ideological and aesthetic, to say things that speak to everyone, and this is at this specific moment that my artistic practice takes place. I’m just using these tools to draw attention to this time of change. As an artist, I would like to immortalize these changes so that no one is ignorant of what happened during this period.

About the exhibition: "Origines", from April 28th to May 25th on