Painter, sculptor and poet Gastineau Massamba Mbongo is one of those committed artists who denounce social insecurity and injustice with aplomb. His art represents a voice that denounces, an image that reflects the misery and suffering endured by others. His aim is to give moral support to those in need, but also to make visible their silent cry, and to make us hear our own deafness in the face of their situation.
Born in 1973 in Poto Poto, Brazaville, Republic of Congo, Gastineau Massamba Mbongo was introduced to the world of art by his father. A professor of sculpture and ceramics at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Brazzaville, he apprenticed him and trained him in various artistic techniques. The Congolese artist then left his father’s studio to pursue his studies at the Centre d’Art de la Tsiémé in Talangai, run by Rémy Mongo Etsion Massamba. He tried his hand at a number of artistic mediums and performances to further assert his body-based art. Whether using thread, paint or drawing, Gastineau Massamba Mbongo has no shortage of means for conceiving his expressive art with its uncertain and complex contours.
In front of his canvas, Gastineau Massamba Mbongo improvises figures without any prior conception of the work itself. Without any upstream preparation, the justice-hungry artist attacks the creative motif directly, disregarding all decoration and narrative. The use of pastel and acrylic enables him to rediscover the energy needed to capture the figures he paints on his canvases.
Gastineau Massamba Mbongo is an assertive playwright, who never fails to bring out the theatrical connotations in his work. He paints to the depths of the flesh and isolates his characters in black backgrounds, an asceticism that lends his canvases an almost nil decorum, reminiscent of Beckett’s stripped-down theater.
Far from being a funeral oration, Gastineau Massamba Mbongo’s art is a subtle blend of mannerism and expressionism, revealing the plight of human beings fleeing the bleak, lifeless environment of political violence, without economic or social security, moving and migrating in search of better living conditions. In their own way, these paintings bear witness to the current state of the world and the most inhuman situations in which we live on a daily basis.
Gastineau Massamba conceives his works as a blend of painting and writing, installation and performance. He confronts them with a diversity of mediums, from watercolor to charcoal, from charcoal to Indian ink, via burns, the bodies with abstract and complex forms represented by the artist question the theme of current international geopolitics.
Recognized by international critics, Gastineau Massamba Mbongo‘s works were presented until June 2018 at the Bandjoun Sation, Barthélemy Toguo Foundation, Cameroon. These creations are also part of the collection of the Musée d’Art Contemporain Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech, and are also present in the Gervanne and Matthias Leridon collection, at the Fondation Blachère, the Fondation Beneton and the Centre d’art Barthélémy Toguo, among others.
In 2004, he took part in the Dakar Biennial and the Casablanca International Biennial in 2012. The Congolese artist has a rich artistic record, including participation in artist residencies and numerous other solo and group exhibitions to his credit, as well as public collections and publications. Gastineau Massamba Mbongo is a renowned artist whose works have a powerful sense of international awareness. They challenge viewers’ deafness to the cries and suffering of others, and invite them to open their eyes to these deplorable and omnipresent situations in our surroundings.