Togo X France
“I believe that man is ambivalent: human and animal at the same time, capable of the worst and greatest achievements,” says Yao Metsoko of the philosophy that informs his series, Duality. It is fitting then, that Metsoko is both painter and sculptor, French and Togolese, fine artist and educator. Duality is both an outlook on human existence and his lived experience.
His work has been described as a union of the invisible, the visible and the secluded – a public interrogation of The Self. The maternal femme is a central figure in both Metsoko’s painting and sculpture – if not through the direct referencing of femme bodies, maternal care and feminine cosmology, then through the interaction of earthen bodies in their environments, the fullness of subjects themselves and their embedded yearnings that evoke a deep acknowledgement of the role of the feminine form in both life, faith and struggle.
How much of this is French and how much of it is Togolese is a question Metsoko might answer with a diplomatic laugh and an invitation to consider the assumptions underlying the question itself. Must one ethnicity supersede the other? Should ethnicity supersede all other identities?
The answers may lie in Metsoko’s words – “by revisiting the history of art in the West with my artistic language, I open gateways of dialogue between cultures” – but they come to life in his art. Drawing on ancestral traditions, childhood symbols and contemporary aesthetics, Metsoko’s sculptures speak to the primal origins of the self whilst his paintings assign codes of trans-continental, trans-era communication with his world.
This dialectic approach has earned Yao Metsoko international recognition. He is the winner of the 2005 Modelling Prize awarded by the inaugural International Biennial of Contemporary Sculpture in Nolay, Burgundy, and has exhibited at numerous festivals worldwide.