The artist within Vincent Michéa emerged when he moved from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal in 1986. Dakar, which has been called “the Paris of West Africa”, became heavily influenced by the Negritude movement after the nation obtained independence from France. Negritude was a black consciousness movement that aimed to counterbalance European colonial thinking by asserting pride in African cultural values. Paris became a meeting point for the African intellectuals that started the Negritude movement. The French educational system alienated them from their heritage so they united in the creation of a contemporary African identity through literature and politics. Senegal’s sovereignty was an organic moment for Negritude’s framework to permeate and heavily influence the physical and cultural architecture of the surrounds.
Just once glimpse at Michéa’s works and it is obvious how deeply he was moved by the cultural rhythm that Paris and Dakar share. As Michéa said, “I paint the things that surround me, close to me, the within my sight: point of view in existential surroundings, consciously lived in but also consciously experienced.”
After training as a graphic designer at the university of graphic arts and interior architecture (ESAG) in Paris, Michéa’s intent was to practice in Dakar. A year later and he had his first exhibition at the National Gallery of Senegal. Following this exhibition, Michéa assisted renowned graphic artist and photographer, Roman Cieślewicz for four years. Cieślewicz encouraged Michéa to pursue his career as a painter.
Michéa’s works are riddled by Pop Art and feature the vibrant colours and hard edges of traditional West African textiles. He makes use of Ben-Day dots like Roy Lichtenstein in order to make his figures stand out from their surroundings. His works contain large areas of flat, unmoderated colour reminiscent of Ed Ruscha and early David Hockney and takes images of celebrities, like Andy Warhol.
Michéa also makes use of photomontage. “I cut, I slick, I make incisions, I snip, I slash, I hack off, behead, I dismember…A table, scissors, some glue and images in shambles – Voila! The arsenal of a photomontage artist…Conceiving and manually producing photomontages with simple and common tools is a meaningful act that allows create sensitive images, charged with extreme tensions.”
The glorification of Dakar’s past and the city’s contemporary allure is evident in all Michéa’s works and his closeness to the place, the people and the history may attribute to the effectiveness in which he captures the Senegalese. Despite his use of multimedia and his white gaze, Michéa manages to celebrate black consciousness and leave the vibrancy of blackness intact.