Leyman Lahcine: Painting Conversations

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My SqueezLeyman Lahcine

The faux naïve artist tells AnOther why his new exhibit at Maison Bertaux blends nostalgia with voyeurism

With an outsider aesthetic reminiscent of musician and painter Daniel Johnston, Leyman Lahcine is an artist whose whimsical style belies a Chapman Brothers-esque taste for the grotesque, and an ultra-personal nostalgia for the innocence and reverie of childhood. His latest exhibition at Maison Bertaux in Soho feels at once extremely authentic, playing not to the audience or the increasingly self-referential art market, but instead displaying the inner workings of a mind that is happy to hunker down in a dream of existence, and lose itself in the curve of a pencil line. Taking his conceptual cues from “snippets” of overheard conversation, here the somewhat reticent outsider artist tells AnOther why his is a voyeuristic practice, seeking out humour in the random sequential nature of a shared temporal consciousness.

“The characters in my paintings come from overheard conversations. Every day I hang out with my notepad and write down snatches of conversations I hear – someone will walk past on the phone and say, 'I’ll meet you at dinner with mommy,' and that sentence will resonate in my head all day. That is what I then paint. It’s almost like a form of voyeurism, because it’s a snippet of someone else’s life you are using – it’s a little like walking past someone’s window and peeking inside, then feeling guilty because you have caught their eye.

"It’s a little like walking past someone’s window and peeking inside, then feeling guilty because you have caught their eye." – Leyman Lahcine

“Someone asked me the other day if I considered myself a political artist. I answered no; I just like drawing the way children draw. I am most influenced by film. One of my favourite films is The City of Lost Children [Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1955]. That film was a starting point for me. I was so young when it came out, and I watched it every day for a few years as a kid. It’s a dark film. I think you have to be in a good place to step into that darkness. I think that film made me realise I didn’t have to be the same as other people; that it was okay to be different. I started drawing as a way to write my nightmares or frustrations – it’s always been a kind of diary for me.”

Leyman Lahcine: Lunatic With a Fruitcake runs until October 20 at Maison Bertaux.