“My subjects need to be observed – their faces tell us about them - love, happiness, grief, disappointment. It’s the look in people’s eyes that inspires me.”
Jean Sewonou’s subjects appear very quiet, hardly showing emotion. Their gestures are minimal – a hand placed on a shoulder or around a waist, a tilted head - and they look straight at us with large, dark eyes. Evoking Modigliani’s work, the emotions are subtle, and yet the palette is so bright. Sewonou invites us to imagine how his characters feel and take a moment to reflect on our own emotions.
Sewonou also has a great sense of humor. While his human subjects tend to stare straight at us, his other favorite subjects – fish – are busy living human lives: looking for a soulmate, playing basketball or the drums, jump-roping, riding bikes, selling goods at the market, enjoying a drink at the bar and dancing. His inspiration comes from the prevalence of the spirit of the sea, Mami Wata, in voodoo belief systems and other religions practiced along the coast of West Africa.
Jean Sewonou is a self-taught artist who has been discovering and applying techniques of his own – including the use of photographs and mosquito nets in his paintings – and gaining recognition for his unique personal style since the early 2000s.