A born visionary with a wild imagination.
Cédric Léonard's work shows off an animalistic beauty that captures the attention of many.
Q. For those who do not have the pleasure of knowing who you are, please tell us a little about yourself and the work you create, what is it about?
A. I regard myself as a contemporary Belgian artist. My family is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am the youngest of eight siblings, so I had to learn to assert myself very early to exist. I think it helped me through along the quest of discovering my true self. Later in life, I attended an art school in Brussels to pursue a Bachelor in Visual Art. Looking back throughout my journey, I still consider myself a self-taught artist. Every single day of my life, I've continued on learning, trying and practicing by myself. Today, most of my works are collages. I use digitally reworked images and add other elements such as papers, pictures, and painting. In my work, the technique is subordinate and completely at the mercy of the message.
Q. What does art mean to you?
A. Art is, above all, accepting one true self. It shows the extent of possibilities for those who know how to observe it. In my case, it was the first step towards a more fulfilling and harmonious life for myself and those who surround me. Art has literally imposed itself in my life. It is the freedom to become myself. By creating, we are getting closer to this state of ultimate freedom. And paradoxically, this freedom is conveyed to the viewer who enters a new world where they project all their experiences. The work opens doors, builds bridges and in turn, creates this feeling of freedom in the viewer. It's a long way to get to know each other, which brings us surprisingly close to one another.
Q. Walk us through the process behind one of your creations?
A. My artistic process is very often the result of a personal experience that directly and indirectly influences the next work. Often, when the idea comes to me, I draw it in my sketchbook. Then, I rework it - sometimes once, sometimes a hundred times. When I think it's over, I start painting the canvas only in my head. I then have an accurate yet blurry vision of what it will look like. Consequently, I start the work on the canvas and I retouch it until it is consistent with this vision of mine. That's why the process is sooooooo long (laughs).
Q. If you were given a million dollars to invest in your art career, how would you spend that money?
A. I do not think a million dollars could help me to become a better artist (laughs). On the contrary, I think that art has this democratic mission. It's part of its magic. Obviously the more we evolve, the more expensive the techniques used will be but it must remain available. Besides, with a million dollars, you could do things so much better than just selfishly helping my career (laughs). For example, fight against poverty.
Q. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever experienced in your life?
A. Last year, I was invited to Venice by Luca Curci, a gallery owner, as part of an exhibition on Body Languages. It was a completely crazy, confusing and undoubtedly the most impactful experience in my young life as an artist. It was the first time I traveled for my art. It was a proud accomplishment of mine. It was also a special moment in my personal life. I had just broken up with my partner and was going to the city of love. I would have loved to share that moment with her. In addition, the exhibited painting was about her. The gap with my life in Brussels could not have been greater. It was such a timeless and rewarding moment. Those who are familiar with Venice know it's a real maze (laughs). I lost myself many times within the city and like everyone else I tried to find my way. But I realized that it was actually the path of my life that I was looking for and not the way to the hotel or the gallery. I had this unique feeling of having never been so lost while being exactly on the right track. This sensation was incredibly inspiring. A real breath of fresh air. It was a taste of priceless freedom. On the last day, I spent the afternoon on the roof of San Marco Church listening to music. It was simply too magical. To be on the roof of the world, of this world. To be as free as ever. My best memory so far.
Q. There are a lot of individuals who want a career as a fine artist, what kind of advice can you share with them that has helped you throughout your journey?
A. One piece of advice that has been the trigger for me: to accept oneself. Even when we have the feeling that the whole world and society do not accept us. Let's face it: it's extremely difficult to do what we love, to say what we think is, to simply exist. We are constantly judged. In order to give the best of oneself, you must learn to accept oneself. To move towards a chosen life in harmony with oneself.
Thank you Cedric, it was a pleasure speaking to you!
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