Hailing from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Ouattara Watts’ (b. 1957) dynamic paintings are deeply influenced by his personal history. Fascinated by the music, dance and mask rituals surrounding the African religion Poro to which he was initiated by a loved one, Watts discovered what he calls “painting in motion”. In the words of the artist: “I paint with brushes, but also with my hands, I flatten my two bare hands, I like this contact with matter, painting, and I go with my body, by circular movements borrowed from Sudanese architecture by the time when clay mixed with shea butter allowed houses to stand for several generations.”
The late Jean-Michel Basquiat was an integral part of his artistic journey. After a chance encounter, the two painters became close friends. Basquiat bought numerous works by Watts on a studio visit and convinced Watts to leave France to settle in New York where he has now been living and working for 30 years.
Drawing on his origins and cosmopolitan experiences, the artist’s practice intimately mixes music and painting, composing works rooted in a spirituality inherited from magic rituals and an animist philosophy linking man and nature. His paintings weave and tirelessly blend African traditions, Western modern and contemporary art, and the influence of the greatest painters and most brilliant composers of the century. They provide a happy antidote to the reactionary drifts and folds of identity that sadly mark our international reality today.
Watts studied at Paris’s L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts and has exhibited widely in Europe and the United States.