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An initiatory journey through art

Jocelyn Akwaba Matignon's workshop is located in the heart of Pointe-à-Pitre, in one of the main shopping streets of the city center: street Frébault. Let me tell you, when I walked these streets as a kid, in the hustle and bustle of the last back-to-school shopping, I never thought there could be such peaceful places nearby.

Jocelyn Akwaba Matignon, artiste peintre en plein travail dans son atelier.
Bouton de direction vers les créations

Standing in Jocelyn's studio, I am impressed by the height under the ceiling, which allows her to exhibit large formats, sometimes 3 meters high. A high ceiling that makes his work even more masterful.

Travels that nourish his artistic journey

Jocelyn Akwaba Matignon is inspired by observations he has made in different parts of the world… The symbol used to sign his paintings is also a triangle, the vertices of which trace the different stages of his artistic journey. Follow me, I tell you.

Born in Pointe-à-Pitre, he grew up in the North of France. It was in Europe that his artistic journey began, in France and Belgium, where he immersed himself in the power of the oldest forests in Europe. There, he was nourished by their solemnity, their slow rhythm, their energy. He encountered the spirit of the Earth, which then fueled his plastic research, and which encouraged him to use natural elements from the forest in his painting.

“Even today, we all wear a mask. Whether it's the mask you wear at work, in your romantic relationships, or even with your family sometimes.”

When Jocelyn tells me this truth, I feel it throbbing inside me... How many times have I noticed that I don't necessarily react the same way if I speak to a friend, a colleague or a neighbor. Of course, society shapes us and makes us behave in a certain way depending on the circumstances. Very calm with strangers, I can become quite talkative and enthusiastic if I am surrounded by my family. And I'm sure I'm not the only one in this case. Don't worry, does this happen to you too?

Finally, Jocelyn returned to live in Guadeloupe in 2003. He took the opportunity to go to Guatemala to draw the Amerindian spirit there. More specifically, the Maya heritage.

You know, one of the oldest, richest, most learned civilizations to have existed in Central America. It reached its peak between 200 and 900 AD.

“It is the only civilization that the Spaniards failed to extinguish. The Caribbean islands were part of the Maya empire, they called them 'the islands of the rising sun.”

Indeed, until today, millions of people speak dialects from the Maya language in the region.

For years, Jocelyn's work has been inspired by the Maya cosmogony. During an artistic residency in Guatemala, he was able to stand at the heart of the old empire. He then found a new impetus by immersing himself in the culture and vibration of these places. Physical elements have also fueled his work, volcanic ash used for the background of the canvases for example. The report in Spanish here for the most curious!

Moreover, there is always a Mayan medicine wheel at the center of its exhibitions, to remind us where its creative impulse comes from, and to create an atmosphere conducive to a quest for appeasement, tranquility and silence.

Vue de l'exposition au Séoul, avec la roue de médecine au premier plan
Exhibition at the Korea Foundation Gallery, Seoul, in 2016

I have a Caribbean ancestor, but I don't know much about this facet of my identity. It seems to me that in Guadeloupe, it is little represented, little remembered. I only know of the Roches Gravées site in Trois-Rivières which is linked to their history.

However, it is a fundamental stone of West Indian culture, since the Arawaks, Amerindians, were the very first inhabitants of our islands. Maybe that's why the Native American part of Jocelyn's journey is the one that touched me the most?

Vue des livres sur les Mayas, dans l'atelier de Jocelyn Akwaba Matignon

As you will have understood, the work of Jocelyn Akwaba Matignon is extremely documented. He feeds on all the influences of his travels, his readings. He digests them through meditation and daydreaming, but above all through the systematic and methodical reworking of the themes that affect him.

This is why there are so many levels of readings and layers in his work. It's like peeling an onion, and that's what allows you to discover a new aspect, a new color each time.

But still, the Kioukan is present.

And then you wonder what it is? Kioukan, kezaco?

Jocelyn gives you an introduction himself:

Art as metaphysical questioning…

Jocelyn's wife spends a moment with us, and we feel her pride when she talks about her work. She tells me that he is able to draw his Kioukan with a freehand stroke. It is she who makes me notice that in Jocelyn's works, this symbolic entity, with an almond-shaped head, is always present.

This character appeared to Jocelyn in a dream. And he revealed his name to him himself: the Kioukan. It was only much later that Jocelyn understood the hidden meaning behind this name:

  • Ki, that is to say Who are we

  • Or, to ask where are we going

  • Kan, to take into account the passage of Time, which transforms us

In fact, this character alone shows the quest of humanity… We always have in us these questions of our place in the world, of the mission that we have to accomplish. All civilizations have asked themselves these questions about the meaning of life, whether it is called “reason for being” here, “ikigai” in Japan, or “uso” among the Navajo Indians. Each people has created their own landmarks and beliefs to explain what we do on Earth as sentient beings.

“Among the Navajo Indians, when a child comes into the world, we wish him that his steps walk in beauty, whatever the state of the road he will have in front of him.”

And I quite like the vision of Jocelyn, who synthesized everything he learned during his physical journey between continents, and intellectual as a full-time artist!

“Art is a journey. Art is there to help us contemplate, to take our time. To help us discern the beauty of the world… Because art inspires us to stop, look and be in the moment. To really look at art, or nature for that matter, is to silence our mind which is constantly talking.”

When Jocelyn says this word "mental", a lot of connections are made in my head: The 4 Toltec agreements, The power of the present moment, The Alchemist... these books that I read to try to live better and that we found in the personal development department at FNAC. While still in a museum, silence is done in my mind.

I have to admit that I love this vision of art as a way for humanity to do two things that are essential to its fulfillment: first, take the time to contemplate in silence, second, look at the world through the eyes of another.

I even feel like it's a form of humanism, don't you? If we enter the universe of an artist, if we really look deeply at what he seeks to express and what it refers to us as consciousness, then I am convinced that we will no longer need to talk open-minded… but that we will really move on to the stage of understanding the other.

But accessible art all the same!

Sipping the drink that Jocelyn served me, "atoumo" (or alpinia zerumbet), I breathe more peacefully. I sink into the sofa and I feel a wave of well-being settle on my shoulders, like when you put on a shawl for a slightly chilly evening.

The feeling I have left from my meeting with Jocelyn Akwaba Matignon is above all an immense serenity. I have the impression that he found the answers to his questions thanks to his artistic practice. And he communicates his findings to the person listening to him, in all simplicity.

“When I started, I was on my journey and I didn't even realize it. The world is a great mystery that artists try to understand. They create windows on the world.”

But it is not because we speak of “metaphysical questioning” that art must necessarily be abstract or incomprehensible! I think that art cannot be reserved for an educated elite, who would dictate how to feel when encountering a work, on the pretext that they would know in which artistic current the canvas participates...

And even if Jocelyn has studied Fine Arts, even if he has been painting for almost 30 years, even if he has exhibited in several countries, he remains convinced that art must above all be felt. It is certainly for this reason that teaching art to children is so close to his heart.

Atelier dans une école primaire, sur le sol de la cour de récréation. Roue colorée à la main.
Workshop conducted in a primary school in Guadeloupe
“Art is enjoyed like a sunset, you don't need someone over your shoulder to tell you that the colors go from orange to purple, or that there happens to be a unexpected green ray… Each canvas emits its own vibration and transmits it to the viewer. Either we are affected or we are not.”

And since Jocelyn talks to us about vibrations, I transcribe here the incredible story he told me. It's a story that shows the power of art when someone immerses themselves in it.

A domestic worker worked for a renowned painter (whose name we will not mention here, but it is not Jocelyn). She absolutely wanted to buy a painting from him, and was saving up to place an order with him. When the time comes, once the canvas is installed in her home, our heroine is so moved that she decides to change the sofa so that her new canvas is better showcased. Once the sofa arrived, she thought that the cushions could also be changed. And the carpet. And painting. One thing leading to another, she redid her entire apartment! She feels a new energy inhabit her, she has a renewed enthusiasm in her daily life, so much so... that she meets a lover!

This story may seem silly to you, but it is the truth. Pure and simple. The vibration of this canvas brought something new to the environment of this woman, and it impacted her whole life.

“A book, a music, a painting, it can change someone's life. Because each work, each canvas has its vibration. And they resonate something in itself.”

In turn, are you ready to welcome a new vibration into your home?


The works of Jocelyn Akwaba Matignon

Kioukan vibrations


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