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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 21, Page Two of Three


Page One:
- Maria Luisa Grimani: Collages

Page Two:
- Songda

Page Three:
- John-Henry Marshall's New Show On Wood
- Rich Chin: His Father Remembered
- Romantic Pieces from the Past


Dans les bananerais (In the banana plantations)
by Songda

Pyrography on wood panel, 29 cm by 29 cm

Image courtesy of the artist

A Multifaceted and International Career

Graphic artist, Songda Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso has been residing in Montpellier, France since June of 2002. By way of explanation for the move, he says "My wife is French, and after she lived 7 years with me in Burkina Faso, I decided to live with her some years in her country."

Born in 1964, Songda decided definitively by the age of 19 (after completing his studies in accounting) to make a career in art and to specialize in the pyrographic technique.

In recent years Songda has been exhibiting in Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, and France. He won the Prize for Creativity at the 2000 Biennial of Naive Art in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, and in 2002, he won a journalism prize for one of his graphic designs in an on-line monthly magazine.

Pyrographic painter and graphic designer, the multitalented Songda also writes music and does animation for African children's stories.

Legumes Verts (Green Vegetables)
by Songda

Pyrography and colored India inks on leather

Image courtesy of the artist

Style and Technique

Songda works in pyroengraving on wood, on gourds, and on leather (goatskin) and has begun in the last year to introduce color into his pyro works (acrylic paint on the wood ones and India ink on the leather pieces).

Songda's pyrographic technique--most notably on his first piece in wood at the top entitled In the banana plantations--is outstanding in its originality. Combined with his remarkable gift for graphic design, his pyrography offers a richness and warmth typical of this art form while adding the extraordinary effect of an additional dimension, resembling relief carving.

His graphic design style--in his press illustrations as well as his pyrographic works on wood and leather--shows us "narrative scenes [of West African life], some openly dream-like . . . full of humor, tenderness, jubilation and based on hope, for the sensitization of African people is the driving force behind his work."

Comme des roseaux (Like the reeds)
by Songda

Pyrography and acrylic color on wood, 38 cm by 60 cm

"Comme des roseaux . . . qui ploient au gré du vent, les Hommes se laissent emporter par les modes, les courants de pensée, les traditions, sans réflechir par eux memes. Ainsi, bien souvent, ils ne travaillent pas pour le bien de l'humanité."

"Like the reeds . . . that bend in the wind, Men get carried away with tides of fashion, currents of thought, and traditions, without thinking for themselves. Thus, more often than not, they do not work for the good of humanity."

Image courtesy of the artist

Final Notes and References

Songda had been working as an illustrator for a monthly on-line West African newsletter called Le Marabout (unfortunately now defunct) that was published out of Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou. By clicking on that link, you can see examples of his work in the slanted headline.

It was because of one of his works done for Le Marabout that in October 2002, Songda won a journalism prize in illustration awarded in francophone Africa by Radio France International and Reporters Without Borders (acronym RSF, from the French) for his graphic design art work of a mass grave discovered at Yopougon in the neighboring country of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Songda's prize winning piece can be viewed by clicking on Hats Off to Songda Ouedraogo, a Courrier International article announcing his prize. An RSF article (in English) entitled Democracy Flourishes in Environment of Press Freedom tells the story behind that journalism award.

View more pieces of Songda's wondrous work in the Songda Ouedraogo Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

Although his career was well established in West Africa, the move to Europe has not been detrimental to Songda's art career in the least. In the short time since his arrival in France, he has already had a one-man show in Montpellier as well as two group ones. And already more are planned for 2003.


Sagesse Inaccessible (Inaccessible Wisdom)

Oil painting and pyroengraved wood frame

Image courtesy of the artist


FICHOU is the nom d'artiste of Gilles Fichou of France, whose imaginative works seen here and in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art are paintings set in pyroengraved wood frames.

"I was always attracted to pyroengraving," FICHOU says, "by the fire, by the surprising result you can obtain on a piece of wood with the help of a burning iron, by the magical line that you can accomplish on a white sheet with a piece of charcoal (the inspiration for my black on white lines in my paintings).

That must come from our distant ancestors populating prehistory, fascinated by fire! "


Oil and acrylic painting with pyroengraved frame, 100 cm by 70 cm

Image courtesy of the artist

An Integrated Style Evolves

FICHOU's paintings and pyroengraved frames have evolved into an integrated piece in which the frame not only enhances the painting as a complementary decorative art piece as in the case of the first owl above (Sagesse Inaccessible) but actually becomes an extension of the art work itself while simultaneously framing it, as can be observed in the second owl (Nyctiméné immediately above) as well as in the two pieces that follow.


Oil painting and pyroengraved wood frame, 70 cm by 89 cm

Image courtesy of the artist

Aboriginal Influences

"My work," FICHOU explains, "is inspired very particularly, even if it is not readily apparent, by the works of the Aborigines of Australia--above all by the utilization of the point and the line--and in general by the art termed 'primitive' found in tattooing and scarification."


"My obsession," FICHOU continues, "was to utilize pyroengraving with painting, in combination. Easier said than done! The easy part was to use the pyroengraving around the wood frame; however, I wanted the wood frame to become an integral part of the work, which is why you see the continuity of the trailing dots and lines passing from the painting to the pyroengraving, and passing from the center to the edges of the canvas."

"For the technique itself, I use and abuse dots produced by means of a heated pointy tip, and I also use heated tips that are simple geometric forms, such as circles. Squares, triangles, and rectangles are not left out either. It is, contrary to how it might appear, pretty rough and tough work!"

Deux (Two)

Oil painting and pyroengraved wood frame, 70 cm by 89 cm

Image courtesy of the artist

Closing Thoughts

"As far as my painting goes," FICHOU says, "For the time being, my work revolves around the faces (sometimes strange or tormented faces) of women or men. These faces are drawn against a central background that for me recalls the piece of bark that the Australian Aborigine utilizes. The faces are sometimes tattooed."

View more of Fichou's outstanding works, including some in other media, at the FICHOU page on the Gaujonne website and in the FICHOU Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

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2003, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.