2022 Artist in residence :
Tesprit, or Foli Kossi Gérard Tete, is a self-taught artist born in 1994 in Lomé (Togo). Tesprit has been drawing and painting since childhood, with the 2020 pandemic depriving him of his resources, he turns to recycling used flip-flops and sandals that he sculpts, cuts and assembles to portray the city’s street children. The artist explores the theme of childhood and the living conditions of the “dzimakplao”, the children without education in Mina, the vehicular language of southern Togo – a term also commonly used to pejoratively refer to flip-flops.
The artist’s practice begins outside, in the streets of Lomé, meeting these children whose everyday life he captures (begging, playing, collecting abandoned objects, etc.), and in the city dumps where he gleans the material that characterises and determines his work: used flip-flops and beach sandals. Starting from snapshots taken in the field, the artist associates in his works documentary image and recycling. When he sources the rubber soles, his gestures even superimpose those of the children he represents.
During the transition from photography to carving and gluing the pieces of soles on the canvas, Tesprit operates a radical simplification of the image. The background is made uniform by a grid or by the repetition of a pattern while the framing is tightened on the models (rarely more than three). The portrait is drawn at shoulder height, sometimes full length, always from the front – without a face. Tesprit sculpts silhouettes masked by a patchwork of soles that simultaneously conceals and universalises his subjects. Their heads are turned towards us, they call out in silence, stare without looking – and in turn, we look at them.
These past two years the artist has benefited from three personal exhibitions: in Paris (Gallery Mathilde Le Coz 2022), Accra (Gallery Soview 2021) and Lomé (French Institute of Togo 2021). One of his works was recently selected for the Swatch x you project and lends its motifs to the famous Swiss watch.