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Gregory Olympio

A view on Diversity & Inclusion

New acquisition in 2022

Gregory Olympio, Family, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 81 cm

Gregory Olympio, Family, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 81 cm

"I was from several cultures, I was neither-nor. But I was also to be and-and."

Gregory Olympio

The artist

Gregory Olympio's approach to art making is influenced by his mixed cultural upbringing.

Born in 1986 in Lomé (Togo), he moved to neighboring Benin a few years later. In 2009 he started off training as an architect in Paris but soon changed to the Beaux-Arts academy in Besançon, where he received his artist diploma (with honors) in the sculpture class of 2015.

Olympio still resides in Besançon (FR), working mainly in painting now. His experience of bridging Beninese, Togolese and French cultures (and territories) has brought about in him an interest in those more or less tangible spaces that connect or separate us – the overlaps or intersections that exist between people, beyond the usual social - cultural identifiers (race, gender, religion) that continue to bind us.

His work has been the subject of numerous gallery and museums exhibitions in France, and internationally since his first important solo show during a residency at Schloss Balmoral, Bad Ems (D). As an emerging artist he is represented by blank projects, Capetown (SA), and it is from the gallery’s booth at LISTE Art Fair in Basel that Credit Suisse acquired the painting Family in June 2022.

The work

At first glance, there is something sketch-like about the two figures in Gregory Olympio's Family (2022). Without sharp contours, flatly immersed into their background, one person merges into the other. The title of the picture, "Family," makes one think of twins - siblings who here have a different outward appearance. However, their connection is made more intimate by the shared color space they occupy and the symmetry in the figures’ arrangement. The painting appears somewhat sparse and minimalist with its thin layer of paint, but the concentrated and bright pastel tones give it a very contemporary freshness.

Often, fragments glimpsed by chance in everyday life become motifs in Gregory's paintings: a haircut seen online, a woman on the street, or a series of colors that the artist has memorized in passing. These impressions are compiled into a single image that, in the artist's words, "honors several people or things." In a recent interview, he added that he is never concerned with real people or concrete situations: "I hope to represent everyone in my work. I don't want to exclude. I want to believe that in the end all "races" will be represented."

Having lived in several places and having been exposed to different cultures, Gregory Olympio has a keen awareness of tracing the fundamental elements of the human existence: here, for example, the feeling of closeness ("family"), which naturally accompanies the constant marking out of one's own boundaries with others. In addition to portraits, the artist used to paint landscapes, and these, too, demonstrated expressive-abstract echoes alongside realistic ones. He is never concerned with concrete situations or even a story. His paintings are an expression of deep emotions, and somehow they make you happy with their serenity. No matter where I come from, or who or what is depicted here - we genuinely participate in it.

André Rogger