You Sea Us: Ludovic Nkoth @ Luce Gallery, Turin
In Turin, through April 5, 2021, Luce Gallery is proud to present You Sea Us, Ludovic Nkoth’s first European solo show with the gallery. In the artist’s native land - Cameroon - water is not only the symbol of life and rebirth, but it also represents how countless African migrants start their journeys to Europe in search of a better life, all too often to find nothing but closed doors, hostility, and in the worst case, death. The human rights situation of migrants and refugees at the Mediterranean Sea is desperate, dangerous, and the numbers of lost lives at the hand of European authorities are unjustifiable and one of our century’s biggest tragedies.
“My idea was to travel to Europe and create these works on European land to show them everything they are refusing to face in their own backyard. I lived in Spain for a couple of months during the pandemic because I wanted to experience what it would even feel like to walk around that part of the world as a migrant of color,” Nkoth explained.
The exhibition features six works on canvas portraying people forced to face the unknown. The large-scale painting “Lighthouse” depicts a sinking boat, an image we are often confronted with daily, but this time, the viewer has to observe and contemplate these desperate scenes and therefore becomes part of it as a witness.
Nkoth uses an array of mediums in this body of work, including wood panels of the masks that almost work as sculptures, works on paper, metal, shells, sand, fishing rods, and more. He uses raw materials such as sand to evoke different dimensions - literally but also on a deeper spiritual level.
Throughout the show, Nkoth thoughtfully waves in different symbols such as shells, passengers, and fallen angels as part of a complex and personal investigation of the African continent that suggest a sense of depth and discovery. Shells were traditionally used as currency and are also associated with the spirits of the water. Here, Nkoth uses them to represent the bodies that were lost at sea. The painting “Do They Hold Me Down” is a self-portrait, and the shadow coming through the body stands for all those souls lost in the Mediterranean Sea. According to the artist, those “fallen angels” who were once on that same trajectory are now returning to protect new passengers through this horrifying experience and to guide them to the shore safely. The show’s centerpiece, “The Gates Of No Return”, in which Nkoth depicts the menacing routes asylum seekers are forced to take given the lack of legal paths to enter Europe.