Jean Telly Kongolo is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was born in Kinshasa. He studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Kinshasa and continued his studies in China and France. In 1997 he settled in Beijing where he opened the Kongolo Art Studio. He currently lives in Daejeon, South Korea.
Trained as a sculptor, he has also mastered painting, ceramics, design, and silkscreen printing. His source of inspiration is Africa, as evidenced in the sculpture, “Africa, The Queen.” His work draws from African art and exudes the style, depth and feeling, as well as the beauty of this rich continent. He is among a group of rare young African artists who have maintained the integrity of African art and at the same time succeeded in bringing it to the outside world.
Audiences fall under the spell of his sublime work as they connect with the perfection of lines and curves immortalizing the life and romance of Africa. His themes reflect the state of his own soul; a blend of cultures retaining the originality of a humble man ready to listen to others and to give of himself. As he himself says, art is a means to express his state of being, his time and place, which are all profoundly influenced by society and the current state of the world. The role of the artist is to teach, witness and to defend. The artist is an ambassador of peace, love and solidarity.
The themes explored by Jean-Telly Kongolo are both aesthetic and ethical; from strength to gentleness, from brutality to tenderness. There is a harmony mixed with the melancholy of music transmitted by the rhythm of his instruments – knives, etc.
In him, we find a timid observant child, but one who is also troubled and rebellious. From this confusion, comes his uniqueness as he draws from the best of both sides.
Don’t we say that, “to be an artist is a gift?” Well then, here is the perfect example to confirm this quotation. As a child, he grew up surrounded by masters, among them his uncle, Lema Kusa, the famous painter. “All that interested him was to play with clay,” is what was said of Kongolo. Play? I’m not so sure, but he spent his free time and his vacations in the artist’s workshops. Art was his destiny; a prisoner of art, as they say.
Telly moved to Incheon at the end of 2017.