Tag Archives: Nigerian Contemporary Art

VICTOR EKPUK’s Drawings on View at Arkansas Art Center July 18 – October 5, 2014

17 Jul

 

 

 

NDI12-logo

CURATOR’S STATEMENT

While he was growing up in Nigeria, Victor Ekpuk would see nsibidi symbols inscribed on things and places. He didn’t know the specific meanings of each mark – only that he must avoid what was marked in this way. These were the signs of an adult male secret society of which the boy was not a member. Therefore, these marks were part of his life, and yet were “other” to him. It was only when he began to study art at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria that he investigated the more particular meanings and history of the strange linear characters. He discovered that nsibidi symbols have a long history of being painted, inscribed, engraved, sculpted and performed in southeastern Nigeria. Ekpuk has founded his personal artistic vocabulary in his own versions of nsibidi, adapting the meanings and forms to his own expression.Ekpuk’s linear writing-drawing is by no means an exact transcription of nsibidi, nor are all of the parts of this person visual language derived from the artist’s African background. He has travelled to many parts of the world and found symbols all around him. He does not assign a specific significance to every mark. The shapes that come together in the African-American artist’s drawings, paintings and sculpture function as abstractly as any patterning in western-based modern art. Yet, the roots of his work in writing and symbolism charge every mark, shape, and area of color with meaning.Ekpuk’s work bridges divides between writing and drawing, painting and drawing, the modern and the ancient. He creates art in many media, including drawings on paper, paintings and painted ceramics. He also creates wall-sized temporary drawings in installations around the world. Ekpuk’s recent ephemeral installations include his chalk drawing for the exhibition Auto-Graphics: Recent Drawings by Victor Ekpuk at the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an installation for the 11th Biennale of African Contemporary art, Dak’Art, in Dakar, Senegal.

Ekpuk’s entries in the 12th NDI include two framed permanent drawings. The drawing Dis Amsterdam Life is a reflection upon his experiences in 2007 as an artist in residence at the Thami Mnyele Foundation in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Composition #2 combines the bold light and dark pattern symbolic of a leopard’s spots with the intricate figures of Ekpuk’s own abstract drawing vocabulary.

Ekpuk will also make a wall-sized ephemeral drawing which will appear between August 20th and 22nd. This drawing in paint markers on the wall will be inspired by Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from his Ninth Symphony. This is the first time that Ekpuk will draw from music. Like most wall drawings in museums, Ekpuk’s Ode to Joy will be destroyed at the end of the exhibition. The ephemeral nature of the work adds to the intensity of experience while it is on the wall. The artist’s process of drawing and the resulting work will be filmed and thus images of it will be preserved when the music has faded and the drawing is gone.

Surely, most of the marks that humans have made on walls since before recorded history have been expunged as Ekpuk’s drawing on the wall of the Arkansas Arts Center will be. Others have stood through the millennia on the walls of caves and rock shelters around the world. Ekpuk’s drawings, whether on paper or on walls, make their way around the world through photography and the internet. In this way, they are shared with audiences scattered in both space and time.

Ann Prentice Wagner
Curator of Drawings, Arkansas Art Center

FEATURED WORKS BY THE ARTIST

  • dis Amsterdam Life
    circa 2008
    pastel and graphite on paper
    50 x 50 inches
    Courtesy of the Artist
  • Composition #2
    circa 2009
    pastel and graphite on paper
    50 x 50 inches
    Courtesy of the Artist
  • State of Beings (Totem)
    installation at Dak’Art 2014
    2013
    acrylic vinyl and metal on wood panel and vinyl mat
    installation, 220 x 510 x 452 x 4 cm

 

Nigerian artist VICTOR EKPUK’s solo “Reminiscences & Current Muses” opens at Morton Fine Art in DC

13 Sep
REMINISCENCES & CURRENT MUSINGS
A solo exhibition of artwork by VICTOR EKPUK, featuring a rare collection of his artwork from 1996-2013
September 13th, 2013 – October 8th, 2013
OPENING RECEPTION
Friday, September 13th, 6-8pm
The artist will be in attendance.
ARTIST TALK
Saturday, September 28th, 4-6pm
Victor Ekpuk, Vigilante 2, 2012, ink and collage on paper, 48"x36"

Victor Ekpuk, Vigilante 2, 2012, ink and collage on paper, 48″x36″

EXHIBITION LOCATION
Morton Fine Art (MFA)
1781 Florida Ave NW (at 18th & U Sts)
Washington, DC 20009
HOURS
Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm
Sunday 12pm-5pm
Select excerpts from the essay of Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, PhD, 
Curator of African Art, The Hood Museum of Art on Victor Ekpuk’s Reminiscences & Current Musings: 
 “Victor Ekpuk’s creative process involves moments of quietude in which he digs studiously into his memory bank for visual clarity. The quiet search for acuity, very revealing of the artist’s interest in human experiences, frames Reminiscences and Recent Musings. In a way, this solo effort is a retrospective because it draws from several bodies of work produced by the artist between 1996 and 2013. These 20 works represent the artist’s meditations on his social experiences, drawing from Nigeria and the United States, his country of birth and residency respectively, and as with most contemporary artists, other worlds that he has experienced in the course of several international artists residencies in the last few years.
…Using invented scripts and imageries that evolved from the cryptic nsibidi writing system that is autochthonous to eastern Nigeria, Ekpuk translates the human experience both transparently and symbolically. It is no secret that the nsibidi ideographic forms now function as a conceptual backdrop for him. Earlier on, he drew extensively from the writing system, as is evident in the paintings: The Three Wise Men (triptych, acrylic on panel, 1996), Heaven’s Gate (acrylic on prayer board, 2000), and Idaresit (acrylic on canvas, 2004). At that point, Ekpuk was more interested in aesthetic memory, the idea that one can subject a common cultural wellspring to formal analysis in order to create new aesthetic possibilities. Except one that has some familiarity with the nsibidi form, the three works are open to multiple interpretations. They present what the art historian Chike Aniakor calls the “veiling of message [as being] the fortress of the artistic impulse.”[i] The works may have specific messages, but they are not directly accessible and require the artist’s intervention in order to unlock them.
Ekpuk has however become adept at inventing his own scripts, which may appear weighty in appearance, but are unburdened with fixed meaning. Unlike the nsibidi ideograms, Ekpuk’s inventions bear no deep secrets. Instead, they are outlets through which he articulates his perception of the world around him. In the artist’s oeuvre, his scripts recur in the form of dots, scrawls, contrived signs that are sometimes borrowed from pop culture, and few nsibidi signs which he employs more for their aesthetic value than for their significance. In 2006, Ekpuk had shifted his interest to drawing as his main channel of expression at the expense of painting in order to explore more rigorously the aesthetics of graphic signs as abstract forms. Altogether his invented scripts provide insights into a world of the artist’s making, a world that straddles the experienced and the imagined.
…In all, the works are several bodies of interconnected ideas that fit perfectly into an overarching artistic vision, from nearly two decades. They represent Ekpuk’s attempt to translate his experiences and the larger human experience, bearing the burden of contemplation, history, and contemporaneity.”
 
Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, PhD
Curator of African Art,
The Hood Museum of Art,
Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

[i] Chika Aniakor, “AKA: The Conquests of An Artistic Vision,” AKA 89 [4thannual exhibition catalogue] (Enugu: AKA, 1989), 8.
Victor Ekpuk, Idaresit (Joyful Heart), 2004, acrylic on canvas, 48"x24"

Victor Ekpuk, Idaresit (Joyful Heart), 2004, acrylic on canvas, 48″x24″

About VICTOR EKPUK: 
 
VICTOR EKPUK’s art began as an exploration of
nsibidi “traditional” graphics and writing systems in Nigeria, and has since evolved to embrace a wider spectrum of meaning that is rooted in African and global contemporary art discourses.  His artwork is in the permanent collection of Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art, Newark Museum, The World Bank, and University of Maryland University College Art.
The central theme of Ekpuk’s work is the exploration of relationships, challenges, and responses to changes that characterize the contemporary human condition.  Of particular interest to his oevre is nsibidi, an indigenous African system of writing that employs graphic signs and codes to convey concepts. Inspired by these ancient writings, the forms in his works are reduced to a basic essence resulting in new symbols or codes in script-like drawings.