Barthélémy Toguo is a multi-discipline artist working with watercolor, sculpture, photography, video, installations and performance art. He started his art studies at the Abidjan School of Fine Arts in Ivory Coast. His studies continued in Europe where he attended Grenoble’s Graduate School of Art and Klaus Rinke’s studio at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf.
His first training involved reproducing classic European sculpting until in 1992, he took a woodcarving workshop that would radically change his approach. In Grenoble, he discovers photography and video and later encounters “German realism” while studying in Düsseldorf. It is here that he became interested in performance art and in 1996 he performs his “Transit” series.
Thango did not use an easel to paint. His technique involved using enormous narrow rolls of canvas, placed on a flat surface on which he would he would sketch in pencil. The visions, stories and questionings that appeared on the canvas undoubtedly came from his wanderings in the forest.
His huge frescos are painted in flat, monochrome colors and encircled with thick, black outlines. They lead us into a kind of imaginary and primitive forest where the worlds of animals, plants, monster figures and stylized masks come together.
Face mask of the Galwa or Mpongwe peoples, living on the northern and central coast of present-day Gabon. Made of wood, pigment, and metal. Artist unknown; 20th century. Now in the De Young Museum, San Francisco.
Nkisi nkondi (power figure) of the Kongo people, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The figure was believed to hold supernatural powers, which were activated by driving nails into it; this could be done either to affirm the sanctity of an oath or to repel evil forces. Made of tar-coated wood with inlaid glass eyes. Artist unknown; late 19th or early 20th century. Now in the Brooklyn Museum. Photo credit: Brooklyn Museum.
Mwaash aMbooy mask of the Kuba people, Lulua Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Made of painted parchment, decorated with cowrie shells, beads, and human hair. Artist unknown; late 19th/early 20th century. Now in the Brooklyn Museum. Photo credit: Brooklyn Museum.
Female kifwebe mask of the Luba or Songye peoples, Tanganyika Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Artist unknown; late 19th or early 20th century. Now in the Brooklyn Museum. Photo credit: Brooklyn Museum.
Ndop portrait of King Mishe miShyaang maMbul of the Kuba people, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Artist unknown; 20th century. Made in Lulua Province, DRC; now in the Brooklyn Museum. Photo credit: Brooklyn Museum.