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Bertrand Goalou - beauty and diversity - interview

Bertrand Goalou – beauty and diversity – interview

Bertrand Goalou is a French artist who paints diversity’s beauty in vibrant colours

Different places, different visions, that’s what we can find in Bertrand Goalou’s works. He is a globe-trotting artist, born in France who explores the world as a “voyageur”. Bertrand Goalou travels around with his sketchbook to capture everyday moments. Real life, people, unexpected encounters, cities and colours. His art is the expression of melting-pot societies, where we can observe the beauty of diversity.

Bertrand Goalou - beauty and diversity - interview
Passing by the Market, Lagos, Nigeria, 80 x 60 (cm), 2018. Copyright © Bertrand Goalou

“Together, we are becoming culturally mixed.” Bertrand GOALOU

Bertrand Goalou - beauty and diversity - interview
Bertrand Goalou

When did you strart to draw?

As far as I can remember, painting and drawing has always been part of my everyday life. It just feels like I started to use and play with pencils and brushes since kindergarden and never stopped since then. My artistic journey was nourished by practice, exchanges and discoveries. Without following an actual academic artistic training, I attended the School of Fine Arts and in parallel with my studies of engineer-urban planner, I also evolved in the associative and artistic world. Then came my first projects abroad, mainly in Africa. A revelation, experimentation and burst of color became essential to my artistic work.

How does your art define you?

This relationship between voyage of discovery and artistic creation has quickly established itself as an inexhaustible source of inspiration in my artworks for more than 20 years.

Bertrand Goalou - beauty and diversity - interview
Colorful Urbanscape, Anatananarivo, Madagascar, 80 x 60 (cm), 2020. Copyright © Bertrand Goalou.

Real life is your leitmotiv, why?

The act of creation, art and travels have always been part of my life and identity. These passions are combined with my activity as urban planner and mobility specialist, now serving development institutions. I have a real passion for the city, its typologies, practices and sociologies, particularly the cities in emerging countries in Africa and Asia. I love to observe the sweet raphsodies of the streets of the cities I travel to. Nothing like losing yourself in a city if you really want to feel it and meet people. These traits are strongly found in my artistic work and my paintings.

Trips around the world, what are you looking for?

I see myself as a globe-trotting artist, exploring the world to capture everyday moments with my brushes and transform them into colorful paintings, as full of life as possible. I might just be looking for new moments, new places, new people and new experiences. When you have seen part of the beauty of the world, you just want to see part of the rest! I had the chance to exhibit in many cities in France including the iconic Pont-Aven and in several African countries at the repeated invitation of French cultural centers, such as in Niger, Cape Verde and the Republic Democratic of Congo. Each time very strong moments of exchange. On my online permanent gallery created in 2015 (website, I regularly share my new achievements, new projects and temporary thematic exhibitions. Art is all about sharing. I started my Instagram in April 2020, to share my paintings from trips around the world and make people travel with me. I’m very glad to offer a new type of art and travels experience.

Bertrand Goalou - beauty and diversity - interview
Easy Rider on Jeepney, Manila, Philippines, 80 x 60 (cm), 2019. Copyright © Bertrand Goalou.

How do you describe your style?

Some define my style as ‘free figurative art’. I am trying to capture the impressions and colors of the moments, playing both on the vibrancy of colors and the intensity of the brush strokes. My paintings are mainly acrylic on canvas, often large formats. In recent years I have also developed a mixed technique combining polychromos and Digigraphie.

Diversity, what does it mean for you?

We are all different and this means all are unique. And that is the beauty I see in diversity.

Bertrand Goalou - beauty and diversity - interview
Donkey cart, Cairo, Egypt, 80 x 60 (cm), 2018. Copyright © Bertrand Goalou

Colours, which is the “light” you want in your works?

My work aims above all to reveal snapshots of life, nourished by light and meetings. I seek to capture the light and energy that emanate from the cities, places and individuals that I discover during my travels. My eye is resolutely optimistic, I try to reveal in my paintings the life, the poetry and the beauty of what surrounds us. We must certainly not ignore the difficulties and often the extreme poverty faced by the populations of the cities I draw. However, what interests me as an artist is to restore the beauty and energy emanating from the scenes that I observe and feel, to honor anonymous people. Each painting is born from a moment actually spent somewhere, the places and people appearing on my paintings exist. So I have long titled my exhibitions of paintings ‘haskan Ku’, ‘your light’ in Hausa (language with very many speakers in West Africa) to emphasize this idea of ​​restitution.

Bertrand Goalou - beauty and diversity - interview
Bus wreck, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 80 x 60 (cm), 2017. Copyright © Bertrand Goalou.

My paintings are also a form of testimony. I document the city and its multiple faces, ways of life and practices, mainly in the cities of the south which are in full change. It is interesting to note that over the journeys, similarities and contrasts between the different cities emerge through the series. My strolling process really consists of strolling around the city along a common thread while trying to get lost and see where my steps lead me, sketchbook and pencils in the bag and iphone in my pocket. It is always an opportunity for discoveries, wonder, meetings and unexpected and unique moments. These are the moments of immersion and letting go that I then seek to restore in my paintings. By the color, the line and the solids, my goal is to suggest these moments with as much authenticity as possible.

What advice to give for someone who has your same passion?

Just follow your own creative journey. When it comes to creation and artworks, just live your passions, follow your inspirations, and most importantly do not be afraid to let it come. It critacally important to experiment and try, tirelessly and endlessly. Even more than the academic learning of techniques, you need to practice your art as often as possible. The act of creation leads to even more creations. This is how art truly becomes part of yourself. Look a the world around you, be curious, learn from the works of other artists, from the past and of today. Work with others, collaborate as much as you can. You know where it starts and never know when it ends. And the beauty of it is that you will surprise yourself.

What anecdotes would you like to share about your artistic travels?

Travel and especially strolling are extremely conducive to anecdotes. The person who draws what surrounds him both intrigues and amuses. Passers-by do not always understand the interest that one can find in drawing their environment which they often consider so insignificant. People come very often, exchange a few words and joke easily. They have fun recognizing their friends in the drawing, and sometimes make fun of them a little. In almost all cases, this moment of exchange is simply appreciated as a mark of interest and consideration.

Bertrand Goalou - beauty and diversity - interview
Colorful bus conductor, Peshawar, Pakistan, 80 x 60 (cm), 2017. Copyright © Bertrand Goalou.

To keep only two, I will quote this time in Morocco, where the drawing was the starting point of an invitation to drink tea and then have dinner. A unique moment spent in the village of Ilmil (at the foot of Djebel Toubkal). The beauty of this spontaneous invitation, the flavors of the dinner and the exchanges during this beautiful starry evening. And also, at the end of this same trip to Morocco, the memory of having forgotten my complete drawing book on a train. This is my first sketchbook of completed travel drawings, which ultimately became an ephemeral work with a very limited lifespan! The art for art and the understanding that the important thing was to have lived this journey fully and all these moments to draw.

In Ghana, the memory of having spent the afternoon drawing children playing soccer and not being able to refuse to give them all the drawings at the end, they were so happy and proud to see each other. It was before the iphone and so I could not keep any trace of this beautiful afternoon spent on the beach of the port of Elmina. And yet, I still have each of these drawings very clearly in mind.

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