Category Archives: Painting

Françoise Nielly


French painter: present

Françoise Nielly is a French artist whose striking paintings utilize bold colors,  thick waves of oil paint layered like frosting, and sharp lines. But it’s her technique that is truly intriguing: Nielly is famous for painting nearly exclusively with palette knives, a tool common in an oil painter’s kit but not commonly used exclusively.

Nielly grew up in the south of France, between Cannes and Saint-Tropez. Her father was an architect, whom she credits for her her sense of space and construction. Though her childhood had its share of difficulty, she speaks fondly of her environment growing up. In an interview on her website,, she says, “I have vivid images of colors, of brightness. Yellow, sunshine, blue, heat, cicadas, pine smell, light… all of that classical imagery of South France is very alive as an experience inside of me.”

francoise_04“LES DIABOLIQUES” EXPOSITION, 57.5X38.2 inches, oil

UNTITLED495, 76.8X38.2 inches, oil

francoise_03DG 320, 39.4X39.4 inches, oil

95BARACK OBAMA, 57.5X38.2 inches, oil

francoise_01UNTILTED 529, 39.4X39.4 inches, oil

Spectacular use of color, texture and layering, and all of this done with a knife? The novelty of technique adds an interesting twist to the appreciation of her artwork. Check out how she does it:


Alexander Esguerra


American painter: 1982-present

Relationships have their fair shares of ups and downs. Sometimes unfair shares. It’s difficult at times to accept the vulnerability and compromise that must be present in order to share a life with another human being. Sex, as a physical mingling of vulnerability and intimate connection, can either be the wedge in a relationship or be the glue that holds it together. It can complicate a healthy relationship or save a faltering one. It is an essential tool in the hunt for a meaningful bond with someone.

In 2010, American artist Alexander Esguerra woke up in his New York apartment after an amorous night with a partner and looked around his messy room. This moment of seeing his normally organized space rendered chaotic after a night of passion sparked the beginning of his project Love & Paint, which is a project growing popular in New York and California that provides a visual representation of physical love between partners. He says, “I wanted to artistically capture those moments through the act of sex that our bodies interacted and affected the space around us without bringing in that whole played-out porn spiel.”

Since that morning, nearly 50 couples have come to Esguerra to participate in the Love & Paint experience. For couples who want to get more fancy, the experience can include Broadway tickets, romantic dinners and spa treatments. But the main event is always the same: a night in a New York City hotel suite with a bottle of champagne, candles, a 60″x72″ linen canvas spread on the floor on top of a heated surface and plethora of non-toxic paint. The rest you can leave to your imagination.

The end results of the colorful copulation are more varied than I would have thought. Some couples seem to have been more romantic, others more violent or passionate. But the great part is that beyond these general stipulations, the experience remains an intimate secret between partners. “Sex is basically the great equalizer,” Esguerra says. “You look at these paintings and you can’t tell if the couple was gay or straight or old or young or married or cheating.” There is mystery involved in them although they are intensely intimate paintings.


Conflict: tempera and gesso on canvas, 2010


Her and Her: tempera and gesso on canvas, 2010


Mad Men: tempera on canvas, 2010


Stood Up and Fed Up: tempera on canvas, 2010


Betrayal: acrylic on plexi, 2012

I find the variability of these paintings intriguing. They are not one messy blur of combined colors mixed by flailing limbs. There are stages involved, some frenzied and some gentle. Some paintings are one unified movement of color, others are the result of broken blocks of movement and smudged handprints. They offer a glimpse into physical relationships without becoming pornographic, which I think is difficult to do when the subject matter is sex. The finished products are beautiful even without the back-story, though the story is the best part. Some couples have even salvaged their relationships because of Esguerra’s project: a result of the project that the artist celebrates. “It has become so much more powerful than sex,” he said. “It is more like relationship therapy, a joyous experience for the couples to celebrate their love.”

I was skeptical, but I think the project’s central idea is a good one. Though I believe there are less expensive ways to rekindle a flickering flame, I appreciate that this all-inclusive experience can get anyone in the world involved in art, and every painting is the result of love and a desire to visually represent it. Here are some examples of happy participants:

Kiki Lima


Cape Verdean artist: 1953-present

“I feel the need to paint in order to survive as a person.”

I recently realized, much to my amazement, that during my two year tenure in Cape Verde I’ve not once stumbled upon a visual artist that hails from this cozy archipelago. There is no shortage of festive music, or women dancing to batuku with rich, colorful fabric tied deftly across their hipbones. But visual art? Forgettabottit.

So I spent a few hours on the internet. There wasn’t much to see, but there was one name that kept cropping up. As my students can attest, the word “artist” in Cape Verde is typically taken to mean “musician.” So when Lima’s name appeared on the Wikipedia page, per the usual, it was listed in the section dedicated to Cape Verdean musicians. But I looked a little deeper and realized that Euclides Eustáquio Lima, commonly known as Kiki Lima, is also acknowledged as a salient Cape Verdean modern visual artist. There doesn’t seem to be much information available on him aside from interviews and frustratingly untitled stills of his work, but he has nevertheless managed to stand out.

Born in Ponta do Sol in the mountainous Santo Antão, Lima went to Portugal in 1983 on a scholarship to study Law, but gradually realized that wasn’t the route for him. He picked up a paintbrush and began to hash out his unique style, studying the Masters in Europe but always with the anticipation of returning home to Cape Verde.

I got to know some of Lima’s work before doing too much research into him and in the end, I think his art speaks very articulately for itself.

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“Força no Pilão” oil on canvas, 61cm X 50 cm, 1995

My immediate response to Lima’s paintings is an appreciation for his ability to capture movement. Even in his above works, which are earlier and more “crude” than what he produces today, the spirit of the islands is rendered beautifully in the organic movements of the subjects. As mentioned above, music is a major component in not only the culture of Cape Verde but in the routine expression of daily life. On Fogo, I’ve experienced drumming and on-the-spot creation of lyrics used in accompaniment of the pilan (represented in the bottom image), wherein people gather to pound corn into a flour for use in katxupa, a local dish. The crowd gathers and makes up songs about the people participating, including singing about “the American in the blue shirt who is now pounding corn with her mother who is wearing a green shirt.” It’s a beautiful experience.

Perhaps the best way to describe the soul of Lima’s work is through his own words. During an interview in 2005 by Teresa Sofia Fortes of ASemana, he expresses the following:

“The first phase of my painting is predominantly dramatic, and has to do with the dramas experienced by Cape Verdeans – the problems of drought, famine, family needs, the brown landscape – but it also has an emotional part…This is all expressed through a very Cape Verdean color scheme. As you know, from the point of view of color harmony, the nature of Cape Verde is poor and I decided that I should invest in people, as they make up for nature’s lack of color, because they wear colorful, joyful clothes…So I opted for expressing this joyous vein Cape Verdeans have.” *

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That quotation sums up exactly what I felt when I first saw his work. In a moment of honesty I’ll admit that if I’d encountered Lima’s artwork in the States, I probably wouldn’t have given it much thought. It’s an ignorant thing to say for someone entering the art world, but perhaps it’ll be a lesson learned. Having lived in Cape Verde, however, I can say with sincerity that I’m impressed with his ability to capture the place and the people. I’ve found that in traditional context at least, there’s a tendency to get caught in the currents of the festa, and all is lost in a lovely swirl of colors and lithe limbs moving together in one communal dance. Some of his paintings may seem chaotic upon first glance, but the frivolity is so well-captured that it seems in danger of dancing off of the canvas and surrounding the viewer.

Intimidades da dança, oil on canvas, 2012

Futuro, oil on canvas, 2011

The two paintings above are some of Lima’s latest work. His color palate is bolder, and subtle features added to the face and body bring an astounding amount of life to the paintings. These last two paintings especially seem to embody more personality. Just a few minor details added to the face and use of more controlled brushstrokes are enough to add depth to the sense of movement he’s spent his career perfecting.

Lima currently lives in Mindelo, the hub of Sao Vicente and the city that many people consider to be Cape Verde’s “most European.” He is based in Kaza d’Ajinha, a house that appears to pay homage to his father’s musical side as well as his mother’s culinary exploits, where he continues to paint in the comfortable solitude of his home country after years abroad.