The work Fashion Street is overwhelmingly sensual and has both a humorous and a mystical quality. The sculpture is strongly related to Tayou’s own life and cultural background. The clothing of the glass sculpture were inspired by down-to-earth African elements from Tayou’s childhood combined with familiar things from the consumer society of the western world. The figure itself is made of glass and was produced south of Florence.
The work is a tribute to street vendors all over the world and, in a way, also a self-portrait. Tayou himself worked as a street vendor during his student years to earn extra money. In Fashion Street, Tayou shows us the beauty of this occupation which, despite its low status in society, beautifies the street scene with the vendor’s colourful wares: headscarves, chewing gum, bags of candy, and toys. He, thus, creates a humorous, composite portrait of a present-day citizen of the world.
Tayou’s combination of forms, colours, and textures and his use of wool, wire, beads, wood etc. contrasts starkly with the clear, cold bright and almost soul¬less glass body. But at the moment all the parts are put together, the work is awakened to life and becomes an elegant, humorous, vital being. A multifaceted totality arises – just as in Tayou’s philosophy of life: “We are all brothers and sisters – even though you are from the north, you are also from Africa”.
About Pascale Marthine Tayou’s art in generalPascale Marthine Tayou’s original name was Jean Apollinaire Tayou, but he changed it in the mid-nineties to his present more feminine-sounding name. This gesture marked the beginning of an unceasing artistically, geographically, and culturally nomadic existence that has carried Tayou forward to the international art scene.
Tayou’s artistic work, like his name, is deliberately fluid and renounces any predetermined structures. His works are ambivalent, unruly, moving, unexpected, and varied, and they are always connected with the idea of travelling and the encounter with people and things that are alien to oneself. Tayou sees being a traveller not only as a condition of life but also as a psychological state that can change the social relations and the political, economic, and symbolic structures that govern our lives.
Humour is vitalTayou’s works often speak to the viewer’s sense of humour. According to Tayou, humour is a very important aspect of life which should count for more in our everyday life. Life is too serious, and that is not good for us, he thinks. It is important that we have self-irony and present serious subjects with humour. This is also a pronounced feature of Tayou’s art, which carries a fundamentally humanist, life-affirming message about openness, the human condition and the unbounded movement of thought in a globalized world.
Tayou’s works are often created with materials he finds on his travels and are therefore closely connected with the now. Tayou sees each new exhibition project as a tribute to life and as a new experience with the many relations we enter into as human beings – in terms of nationalities, areas, people, culture, history, and the materials and objects that populate this world.
Pascale Marthine Tayou is the winner of the ARKEN Art Prize 2011.