Self-discovery through art and sport for Olympian artist Kader Klouchi

If there was one word to describe Olympian, painter and sculptor Kader Klouchi, it would have to be energy. “Movement is very important because it symbolises life,” says the long jumper, who represented Algeria at Barcelona 1992 and then set the French national record in 1997 and 1998. “Something moving is something living.”

Ski alpin - Flamme Olympique - Multi disciplines / 2021 - Kader Klouchi Ski alpin - Flamme Olympique - Multi disciplines / 2021 - Kader Klouchi

Now a professional artist, Klouchi’s paintings do indeed seem to be alive; such is the vitality and energy they portray. One of the seven Olympian Artists-in-Residence selected to create original artwork for the Olympic Agora cultural programme during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, Klouchi has worked on a trilogy that represents the Olympic flame, a skier in motion and the unity brought about by the Olympics.

“I want to share my story and my experience,” he says of his artworks being a part of the Olympic Agora programme. “Everybody has something to share and a story to tell. When people see my work, what I want is not for them to necessarily like it, but to feel some emotion, to interact with the work. That is the goal.

“Art and sport are intimately linked in my opinion, insofar as these two activities facilitate the discovery of oneself. One is spiritual or mental and the other physical. Both are modes of expression.

“For a long time, I thought that sport and painting were a means of escape for me, of forgetting, or a form of freedom. But now I know that, far from being a means of escape, they are resources for building oneself, opportunities to feel alive.”

He mentions the need to escape as a reference to his childhood, which was far from easy. “I was born in Algeria but was brought to France when I was four. Even today, not a day goes by when I don’t think of my roots. The suffering I felt due to being uprooted lingered for many, many years.”

Even though his early years were spent in a village with no water and no electricity, he felt free. At that young age, he did not understand that his father had moved to France to escape poverty. “For years, I used to think we would go back. But I feel 100 per cent French today.”

Growing up in a town called Aussonne near Toulouse in France, Klouchi switched from basketball to jumping because it was difficult to continue with a team sport in a small town where facilities and opportunities were not always available.

Kader Klouchi 2021 - Kader Klouchi

So why long jump? “It was a deep need inside of me from a very young age,” he laughs. “I was always telling myself I could leap over a stream or jump a certain distance. So the choice of triple jump came naturally. It was not until just one year before the Olympics that I switched to long jump. That too, only because of an ankle injury.”

It was a serendipitous move though, as less than a year later he was representing Algeria on the biggest stage of them all, at Barcelona 1992.

“I ended up there with no coach, no federation and virtually on my own,” Klouchi reveals. “I had already applied for French citizenship by then, but it had not yet come through. And the Algerian federation didn’t know me at all. But they called me to go to the Olympics and I decided to just do my best, and jump as far as I could. “I was just trying to fly.”

Just as he had been jumping since infancy, Klouchi says he also started drawing as soon as he was old enough to hold a pencil. “I also always felt the need to draw, to create something.

“Even during the years that I competed as an elite athlete, I continued with my art. It was a way to balance the pressure, a way to focus on myself and find myself. I believe that art and sport are the only moments when you are true to yourself.

“Both art and sport are an international language. And that works for me, because inside of me I feel truly universal. I feel comfortable with everybody. For me, the Olympic values come naturally, because it feels so obvious to me that we all have to live peacefully together and share our experiences.”

Kader Klouchi 2021 - Kader Klouchi

Entirely self-taught, Klouchi switched to being a full-time artist in 2004. He believes that hard work and passion were key, just as they were in sport. “Whether in art or sport, it’s not just a matter of potential, but also work – hard work. What makes a champion is the work that’s put in.” 

The hard work has paid off, as Klouchi is a well-established professional artist today. Through his artworks, he explores the beauty and complexity of the body in movement – his paintings invariably capture moments of intense energy, in keeping with his past. His three paintings for the Olympic Agora depict an Alpine skier in perfect equilibrium, the Olympic flame in flickering movement, and a mélange of athletes from various disciplines coming together in harmonious motion.

Launched by the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage at PyeongChang 2018, the Olympian Artists-in-Residence programme celebrates the link between sport and culture by offering opportunities to athletes with artistic interests to produce and present new artworks during and between editions of the Olympic Games. 

Olympian artist Kader Klouchi (FRA-ALG)
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Olympian Artists-in-Residence at Olympic Agora Beijing 2022
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