Paul Sika: Portrait of a photo maker

511px-Paul_Sika_portraitPaul Sika is a diamond… I’d say. Do you suddenly feel the urge to stop your reading? Do you think this article aims only to flatter? Not at all! The artist we are refering to is multi-talented, sometimes playful and sometimes spiritual. At the end of our interview, I was lost in thought on my way home. I was facing a dilemma…an intriguing one at that.

A journey from unexpected initiation to an absolute quest

While he was studying computer sciences in London, Paul had a revelation. This was the beginning of him doubting his career path. His calling was sealed when he saw a movie trailer of Matrix 2 through the window of an electrical appliance shop. Paul casually adds that this was the beginning of an ‘‘unconscious cycle’’. Brought up on mangas and video games, this experience was different, because his love for art came from an American blockbuster.

This triggered him to invest in a very nice camera and despite what critics said, he began to wrap-up anything and everything. His choice of photos and not videos is very interesting because the static effect of a photo as an intermediary, offers an exercise which matches his meticulous personality. So, for this reason added to his fondness for this vocation, Paul decided to continue in this line. A great defender of ‘‘photo making’’, Paul’s works reflect what happens when cinematography techniques are transposed on glossy paper.

Self-taught in dark rooms, he started his training first in cinema, but this lasted for a short time. He noted all the important details in a small notebook. Next, he moved on to fashion photography but he found this boring. Slowly, his path of Tom Thumb progressed to a bigger vision. Paul began to define his theory, gaining more insight into his path and his search. For him, ideal beauty can blossom in art, mathematics, or sport. It can be found in each one of us. The most important is to align your path in order to discover this jewel.

So Paul came up with this word, ‘‘transcendence’’. Do not be afraid, to each his own, means to break through. The painter-photographer refers to Drogba, who he is quite familiar with. Drogba had found his jewel that gave birth to beauty and which transcended something which was thought inaccessible by the layman. A modern Plato, in search of a stunning grail but also in love with SpongeBob. These are contrasting elements.

 

The real struggle between fiction and real life.

At the Heart of Me - Paul SikaFor Paul Sika, there exists a dilemma in the concept of art. He describes himself as a sponge, absorbing real life with his appetite. Real life is captured in full view. The objects rustle and bustle in the deafening splash of colors. These colors swatches purify each other through the link created by the artist. That is to say that, pictures are just a visual medium for things that are and have to be beautiful. Paul Sika abandons politics and chatter and reunites pure imagination. He sees himself as a story teller. He says, ‘‘I am telling a story, a saga’’. The flash of images, this mix, forms a puzzle that is easy for everyone to receive.

The aim is to first touch and then give off a meaning. Paul orchestrates this process which places discovery over creativity. Discovery becomes a test even for the audience. In the midst of this ethereal inquisition, we recognize a reflection of some childhood longings, as the artist would like to mention the cartoons and mangas of his childhood days. His world is woven by these animated threads, which he identifies as a world of "true artists", far from the glass-walled galleries in London and Paris. However, remember that this man is a geek but also an aesthete. If a video game is not beautiful, it is quickly forgotten. Also, humor is a very important criterion. In this domain, SpongeBob is a winner that takes it all; this young character cheers people up. For Paul, he does more for humanity than the vague contemporary art creations. Touching lives is the major aim of the story.

Childhood and Pragmatism: ‘‘The cool attitude’’

Another thing that you should know about Paul is that he is a cool person. He has this air of intelligence and a humorous smile. With all these qualities, he invites us all to ‘‘enjoy life…’’ to love it. Being famous does not mean a thing to him. His only aim is to have his works viewed by others that they may belong to others and also be perceived as cool to other people.

This feeling stems from his love for children stories. This can be seen in his love for Mickey and Minnie. Paul also thinks that Disney is a wonderful and talented artist, a creator of emotions who is capable of healing hidden wounds. If childhood is a situation where all is cool and possible, Paul encourages us never to fear our imagination but to nourish it and continue to search for whatever we left behind while we were growing up.

Do you think Paul has his head in the clouds? I do not think so. When I asked him about his view of art in Africa, the artist was skeptical. He has quite a contrasting view to his colleagues in the industry. He accepts the practical side to his ideas. For him, Art is still at its beginning stages in Africa, mostly because it is not accessible to everyone. The supply chain needs to be better developed and adapted to African reality.

More particularly, gallery owners need to remodel their businesses to fit the local industry and they should separate their vision of art from the European model, which does not work in Africa. Most people think that art is not for them, so sharing should be the major objective so that people can easily appropriate art.

On the Meta-conceptual question, ‘‘is there art in Africa or can we call it African Art?’’ Paul gives a mischievous smile and suggests that we refer to the jewel within us…

Paul has both feet firmly on the ground. His childhood dreams are still balanced by his clear pragmatism in the art industry. He uses terms often abandoned by others as he highlights the need to understand the vocation especially in distribution, which is a major part of the business. He adds that it is important to focus on the administrative part of the vocation. In all, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the business, in order to be part of it.

On this basis, he is presently involved in training for young Ivoirian entrepreneurs and in other entrepreneurial initiatives. One of his fears is not being able to multitask. He does not like to put on only one cap but enjoys that of being the eager and willing communicant. His bipolarity is impressive. His ability to be creative and to be a manager, allows him to direct his business in an expert way. His multitalented personality inspired a fellow artist and friend from Ivory Coast, Jean-Etienne Yangzi to say ‘‘in our time, Africa needs us to be multi-talented’’.

In conclusion, Paul Sika encourages us to plunge in, to continue to impact humanity. Nothing more than that…

Pauline Deschryver

Auteur: Pauline Deschryver

Française diplômée de Sciences po Paris et de HEC, Pauline a travaillé au sein de l'administration publique française et pour des bailleurs internationaux sur les questions de coopération et d'aide au développement. Intéressée par les problématiques de l'économie du développement et, en particulier par le rôle qu'y joue l'entrepreneuriat, elle travaille actuellement en Côte d'Ivoire sur ces enjeux. Elle a rejoint l'Afrique des Idées pour participer activement à ce débat et partager sa curiosité envers ce continent.

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