Throughout my journey in this newly formed series that I like to call ‘an open conversation with passionate minds of the world’, I happen to stumble upon a very interesting character named De Rrusie. At first glance, he may appear as just an impeccable painter with a sense of mystery and an eye for beauty. However, do not contemplate any further, as there is more to this artist than meets the eye. In our conversation, you will learn about who the self-proclaimed ‘spirit of no nation’ was influenced in his past, how he roams around the world with a thirst for adventure in the present and all of his many plans for an undoubtedly bright future ahead of him. There is no uncertainty in my mind that De Rrusie has an important message to share and with the opportunity at hand, perhaps we may all come one step closer into unfolding the life of arguably one of the most distinct artists I had the pleasure of encountering.
De Rrusie was probably my darkest of shadow which became my brightest of light.
For those who are unaware of who you are and what you do yet, how would you best describe De Rrusie to the world?
It is (someone) very abstract. De Rrusie is my main and longest inner monologue. There is still a lot yet to discover about this name that I’ve forged and at the same time, this name keeps on forging me. It is like a land for me to enjoy my own sense of self, foolishness and/or geniuses. And yes, De Rrusie is a painter. He drives around, writes poetry and reads books. His main subject has always been the mystery of life through the lens of beauty. I am trying to execute, observe, and translate some beautiful messages. As simple as it sounds. [Smirks]
It’s perfect! To touch on the many places you were able to access in your childhood, perhaps you can tell us a bit about your upbringing, because I know you grew up quite different from most individuals.
I was born in Cameroon in 1993 however, my parents did not stay long there as I shortly then relocated to France before returning back to Africa where we lived in Burkina Faso for a little while. And then, we moved back to France again where I grew up in Bretagne. From the age of 9 until 21 years old, I mainly resided in France playing in basketball teams, while travelling within Europe, a bit in the USA and West Africa as well. When my final chapter in school and basketball ended, I began travelling, starting in Africa, for a collective clothing project, and then to the US in New York and LA for art direction in music. I’ve been in many states actually through travelling and exploring the country, whilst trying to remain close to my youth and creativity. I lived in London, Paris, Amsterdam and I travelled in Spain to gather some inspiration. I have never been to Asia, but that is somewhere I want to go, visiting temples and seeing nature. Travelling is home for me and a source of dear inspiration. I learn more about myself in motion than I ever did within my own hometown. My upbringing has been through different encounters, classmates, and families. When school years terminated, it just kept on going. Coming from an Afro-European background that is purely distinct, I never tried to pick a side as I believe one and one gives three and we happen to be the third one. We’re our own pioneers in the ways of how we approach our upbringing and how we may translate it.
If anything, I’m just surprised that you haven’t been to Asia yet. Maybe we could go more in depth with your last point because I always believed that there is a correlation with how someone was raised and how they end up viewing the world. For you personally, how has your background affected your way of life?
Even now, everyday I step outside, I tend to experience things at a fast pace. I look at my surroundings for what it is and I try not to make sense of it. Whoever I may be in certain places and what I am portrayed as, throughout confrontations, I tell myself that I do not carry all the answers and keep it going. On my way, I got to really mingle with creativity through sport and art, as for me there was no distinction. De Rrusie was probably my darkest of shadow which became my brightest of light. Maybe I am missing out on the question…
Not at all, you seem to have a very mellow approach towards life. From our previous conversation, you had mentioned moving around like a nomad which is something you do not hear quite often. In your own words, how would you define a nomad in this day and age?
From where my mother comes from in the Fula tribe (Mauritania), I’ve gone to the desert and met with people who’d be really considered nomadic. As a young’n, I was just observing them and taking it all in. Wherever you go in life, you are the closest company that you have, and that is how I see myself as a modern nomad. One of my favourite mantras is ‘I am a spear of no country’. The spear as a weapon that transverses and pierces through anything in silence. I describe myself as a nomad in the way that I am passing by. I always felt like I was passing by wherever I went. It’s all about timing, however, nomad at the time being as much as I am allowed to and as long as I allow myself to be. We talk about places without seeing them and you have to see them by yourself, see who you are in that space, see why you were wrong about your assumptions. So nomad even in the mind, you know.
This is where I find some commonality with your story and mine. Previously in my life, I was moving around a lot as well. At times, maybe you would also come across crowds you could not connect with due to your different upbringing and background. Now to come to a conclusion, how do you think international children just like you differ from others?
Pause wait, do you have the time? [laughs]
It’s a heavy one, isn’t it! [laughs]
I’d say as a spirit of no nation, yeah... Actually, I get confused with the term 'others'. Could you maybe explain more in detail?
Well, I mean it’s uncommon for someone to move around very often. In your own experience, how do you differ from the next person who grew and lived in one specific area only?
Sometimes I forget that not everyone gets to walk in a similar path than you do. (To your point) I get what you mean as we may talk the same language and share similar codes because everything is quite globalised nowadays through smartphones, but still, the different upbringing and the different way of navigating the virtual web as much as the physical one is just needed. It is really needed because it opens one’s eyelids wider and then you start moving wiser as well. I guess that’s what international children challenge as they give you a different perspective and that’s how they differ, it is simply their different worldviews coming from the outside looking in. International children are the children of now because it is normal these days to have travelled to so many places, to have a mixture of backgrounds and moving away for work. When I get to the point of settling down, I will have gathered a fair amount of codes from all of these different places and I am grateful for all I’ve learned. I always thought that I was granted this blessing to be able to step out of my yard at such a young age, even before all of my older siblings. The younger generation is snapping and dropping the old codes. There is a moment in life where even if this (idea of internationalism) is well sugar-coated, we have to connect inwards and that’s the international child! That’s how they differ because they are going to bring something that if only you’ve been inwards, you can adapt to the storyline. Those are different times. It’s great.
Like you said, it is really needed in hopes of pushing more open-mindedness, open spaces and just the idea of internationalism while internalising it as well.
No matter your nationality, political views, and your perception of the world, we all stand under the same sky.
Perhaps we could redirect the next question upon your work and what you mainly do as an artist. As we spoke, you mentioned paintings and that is also how I got formally introduced to you. How would you describe your art?
Everything I do is done the way I took it. Knowing that I am passing by, knowing that I paint in a way that can hardly be described and so, it is very airy and wind-like. I paint what I like to characterise as skies because no matter your nationality, political views, and your perception of the world, we all stand under the same sky. Before I was offered some studio time to paint in colours, I was simply drawing with Chinese ink on paper. Even within that particular practice, I took it from nowhere and without any references from the past. The more I started painting, the more I fell in love with it. I knew that I could only afford that craft with time, space and means, and it would have been the tip of the spear for me to start from. I’d sit on a bench writing things, starting to wonder about the wind, the trees and the sky, and what I would have done if I was in control of all these elements. This is how I got to start my process (in painting), questioning God’s own intent in its creation and the principle of harmony within light. Altogether yes, I think of simply the sky as the first abstract art piece that everyone will stop and applaud to the colours of the sunset. Whenever I start painting, I always end up in some fuzzy clouds in abstract and psychedelic colours. I will never be able to paint on a canvas as large as the skies however, I want them to be gigantic.
I know you just said that you don’t take references from anywhere. Out of curiosity, is there anything that comes to mind in terms of where you draw your inspiration from?
In all honesty, there are so many references, all of them are very broad and they don’t make much sense and that’s what I love! The thing is I love to think that I am of no country or at least, growing mostly in Europe with traces back to Africa. Well, to have the colour purple, you need the colour blue and red. My tipping point is like the colour purple, which is a mysterious one and in the past, it was very difficult to obtain. It may seem boring for those who do not care about colour at that level but personally, I could sit with this colour as a subject.
This is very interesting as I think it gives an insight on how you consume the world around you. Since I believe that I am speaking with an artist who is very much in his own lane, with that in mind, how important do you think it is to include different narratives into the art space?
I think it has always been greatly important as personally, I do not come from any academic background. I began occupying myself with ink and paper when I decided not to attend a university in the arts for fashion design. I mingled and practised with the idea of being called an artist, a painter, a designer and anything considered a creative occupation. Altogether, I am not just painting, as I design clothes, jewellery and some furniture for example, which I intend to share in the near future. I think the love of art for me comes from an interest in small objects such as ornaments. It is so difficult to be simple, yet it is so simple to be difficult. No matter if it is simple or difficult, it needs to be true and beauty is a great way to transcend boundaries. Something that can no longer be described in words gets to be a spiritual experience. The magic is within the heart and does not come from a concept explained through some sophisticated words and beauty takes shape in the eye of the viewer. When you fall into the wilderness of your own youthfulness, then you will meet something that you are going to question longer than a concept on paper that you will drop the moment you step out of that comfort. Rather than going to a gallery with old dried-out paintings for inspiration, go to a church or a mosque, visit a temple, close your eyes, sit on a bench or observe the sky. I may speak like an old man, but those are the simple things we tend to overlook. You have to make the time to do it.
To be honest with you, in terms of art space, I was referring more to the art market as I imagine in your free-time, you spend a good amount of it going to these galleries exploring the works of others. You don’t? [Laughs]
You see, I talk a lot but, the art space (today) is instagram.
Not a lot of people get to view my work from close as they mostly see it online. It is fair game, but the art space is on screen right now and that’s a reason why I like to create gigantic paintings. Art wise, different narratives equate to different people, and so everyone should be part of the art space. But, also… I can’t say it. [Laughs]
Oh wow! Let’s leave this off the record. [Laugh.] Firstly being introduced to you and then, doing some research on my own, it is very apparent that there is not much information about you out there. From my understanding, it felt intentional. And therefore, I have to ask you this question; why is there little information about you on the internet?
I don’t tend to take credit for a lot of the things I do. It is obviously up to me to showcase my portfolio but I do not think it is (for the moment) necessary. Is it something that I choose? I think it is a mixture of both. If nothing so far that I’ve done in the virtual world stays, I make sure that it stays in the real one. Only time can tell when it will catch people’s eyes and I am aware that I may be a bit out of the loop. I am slow in my practice and truly meditative. I like to make time and I do things with purpose because that is the fastest way to get to where you want to be.
I really enjoy your point of view on this one. To finish this off, I think your story is needed. It will offer a lot of people like me and from the younger generation the opportunity to relate and feel heard in spaces where they don’t see themselves yet. The former question was where can we find your work, but a better way of wording it would be where do you want people to find your work? Where should we experience De Rrusie?
A great museum and by great, I mean by the size and the selection. A museum where a lot of people can come and want to see great art. However, great things take a great amount of time and so, I am in no rush. Nowadays, you can view great artworks online, but I hope they will be a balance. I can’t dismiss the virtual world because that’s where the art space is (right now). I am very cautious about the way I carry myself so that my art can attain places with deserving good light and a broad audience. I have been proposed to the most remote of places however, to simply stay true to myself, any place with natural light.