French London-based artist Leyman Lahcine reveals his new set of paintings for a show opening at the Maison Bertaux Gallery this September. Lunatic With A Fruit Cake is, indeed a well-chosen title for this exhibition displayed in the quaint-looking gallery situated above London’s famous French patisserie and tea room.
I interview Lahcine, discussing his background, his aspirations for the future and his provocatively humoristic style.
Born in Grenoble, France, Lahcine speaks of the cross-culturalism ever predominant in his early years: ‘Aristocracy and working class, illiterate and writers, castles and social housing were the extreme contrasts I was immersed in my whole life. It didn't influence my work directly but it opened my horizons and developed my curiosities of the world we live in.’
This perception of diversity and awareness will be a pivotal aspect later, when he decides to leave Grenoble in order to pursue his curiosity for transition in New York: moving away from a city that had alienated him. When asked about his hometown, Lahcine replies: ‘I always felt like an outcast, judged and out of place.’
Since then, we could say Lahcine has come a long way in a literal and metaphorical way. After New York, he decided to establish himself in London and chose this ethnic melting pot of a city as a new home for his practice. Moving along the lines from illustration to painting, without necessarily wanting to be ‘stuck’ in either discipline, Lahcine is as curious and fluid about his work as he is with the constant will to be immersed in what surrounds him.
‘Actually painting is something fairly new to me. You can tell that I'm not really a painter but more of a creative thinker. I'm not sure if I'd ever want to be a painter.’ With some of his works acting as critical observations of our society, he toys with irony and humor, discrediting the power that multinational corporations exert on us through the media.
Works such as Donald Dick (2014-2015) or Mickey’s Real Identity (2014-2015) where infamous cartoon characters such as Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse are depicted in a satirical and demeaning way, putting things back into perspective. As defiant as they may be, we cannot look passed these works without them raising questions and creating a debate.
When I question Lahcine’s motivations behind these works, he explains: ‘Not all my art is political but the ones that are mainly become a critic about unnecessary mass consumption or a satirical comment about capitalism. Illustrations like "Happy Meal" or "Donald dick" are pretty straightforward. I'm not trying to change people's mind but to give another perspective on things.’
A blend between political and comical, with an ever-present razor-sharp incisive blade, Lahcine’s work occupies that ‘open-zone’ where anything is possible and everything is accepted. Between the androgynous figures he depicts - questioning our life and how our society tells us to lead it - and this profound sense of glittery Styrofoam-ely fake happiness that the media desperately tries to convince us about, Lahcine becomes the devil’s advocate, the question mark, taking a mirror and reflecting it back on what we are.
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