Tag Archives: nsibidi

VICTOR EKPUK in The Memphis Daily News

14 Mar

African Art Begins Transition at Brooks Museum

By Bill Dries

For many visitors to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the museum’s African art collection has been a modest display of traditional African art symbolized by a grouping of large masks on a plain wall.

Victor Ekpuk is creating a 58-foot-long mural at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art over the next two weeks as the centerpiece of a newly configured African arts exhibit area. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

That began to change this week with the creation of a 58-foot-long mural by Nigerian-American artist Victor Ekpuk on the once-unadorned wall.

When Ekpuk completes the mural in about two weeks, the rest of the African art area will be on its way to a much different look as well.

“We’re trying to help people understand that art in Africa – while there is this long tradition of it, there are also many contemporary artists who are part of the international art scene,” said Marina Pacini, the Brooks’ chief curator. “They are making work that may reference traditional African art but that has a contemporary life of its own that is not necessarily part of its trajectory.”

Ekpuk worked on the intricate blend of African art imagery and Memphis themes with a pair of headphones on Wednesday morning. As he worked, he was listening to the music of Ali Farka Toure, the late Malian singer and musician known for his work at the intersection of traditional Malian music and North American blues.

Ekpuk is expecting more company Saturday as those coming to the museum’s Chalkfest also will be coming inside the museum to get a look at the work in progress. Ekpuk, too, works in chalk and pastels.

His work is called “Drawing Memory” and is part of a series of works he’s done in different places.

“The whole idea of memory – my notion of memory – is that it’s a very ephemeral condition, a human condition,” said Ekpuk, who uses chalk with the idea that it will all be wiped away at some point. “It continues to change and to be affected by circumstances.”

The mural for the Brooks is somewhere between ephemeral and permanent, with about a five-year life.

“It’s not completely ephemeral,” Ekpuk said with a chuckle against a backdrop of symbols and words on a white surface – some mysterious, some familiar, depending on who is taking in the still-forming piece.

And there is Ekpuk’s perspective.

“I was born in Nigeria; I’m an American citizen,” he said. “My memories of where I was born and where I am now is all in flux. It’s affected by circumstances. I decided to make this work to portray the essence of Memphis as I see it being here and through historical context.”

So amidst the imagery you will see the words “I Am a Man,” but “I Am” is separated from the rest of the slogan from the 1968 sanitation workers strike. And “I Am” is a phrase that appears in Ekpuk’s earlier works with specific glyphs. Dots on the Memphis mural might be cotton, and multicolored waves at the bottom might symbolize a river. There could be the body of a guitar in the center.

Ekpuk doesn’t interpret anything in talking about his work. And he cautions against picking out phrases or symbols. In his works, drawing becomes writing and writing becomes drawing. He refers to his drawing as an “independent genre” as opposed to a support for painting. Ekpuk is also a painter.

“My work is generally inspired by African aesthetics,” he said. “That means that I study some of the objects that will be here and the whole aesthetic of what you will be seeing in the African gallery. I study the form … and I reimagine them my own way in my drawings.”

Those items will not necessarily be the same ones museum patrons have seen in the past.

The museum is working with Christa Clarke, the senior curator of Arts of Africa at the Newark Museum in New Jersey.

“They have a vast collection of superb African objects,” Pacini said of the Newark Museum. “She’s going to assemble a small exhibition for us from their collection using a few objects from our collection.”

Some of Ekpuk’s works are in the Newark Museum as well as the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and The World Bank.

His Memphis mural will stand as the centerpiece for an effort that has an ambitious goal in limited space and limited items. While Ekpuk is thinking about the items to come as he creates the mural, the items the museum is considering for the space are being selected with his style and imagery in mind.

“How do you in a small space like this convey African art?” Pacini asked. “You can’t. It’s a large continent with many countries and many different styles. He’s going to produce something that asks some meaningful questions about bigger pictures that apply across the continent to give people ways to think about African art.”

Click this link to view available artwork by VICTOR EKPUK:

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Victor Ekpuk to paint 58-foot long mural inside Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

17 Feb
 
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Meditation on  Memory, Havana biennial, 2015. Image by Victor Ekpuk.

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is proud to host Victor Ekpuk, a Nigerian-born, Washington D.C.-based artist, from March 6 – 17, 2017. He will be painting Drawing Memory, a 58-foot long mural for the new African art galleries. His art is inspired by nsibidi, a sacred means of communication among male secret societies in southeastern Nigeria. Evolving out of the graphic and writing systems of nsibidi, Ekpuk’s art embraces a wider spectrum of meaning to communicate universal themes. “The subject matter of my work deals with the human condition explained through themes that are both universal and specific: family, gender, politics, culture and identity,” explains Ekpuk.

He reimagines graphic symbols from diverse cultures to form a personal style of mark making that results in the interplay of art and writing. “Our centennial year continues with the reimagining of our African Gallery. Victor’s art will set the stage for the Brooks’ collection of the Art of Africa in a dynamic, thought-provoking way,” said Executive Director Emily Ballew Neff.

Museum visitors are invited to watch him create the mural that will be on the third floor of the museum across from the hands-on family art gallery–Inside Art. Visitors are also invited to a gallery talk featuring Ekpuk on Saturday, March 11 at 1 p.m., which is during the museum’s annual ChalkFest.

This mural begins the renovation of the African Gallery, which will culminate in Fall 2017 with a reinstallation organized by Dr. Christa Clarke, Senior African Curator at the Newark Museum. “We are thrilled to be reinstalling the African Gallery with Drawing Memory as the centerpiece. Victor has been an artist in residence at museums across the country and visitors have been inspired and deeply moved by watching him work,” said Chief Curator Marina Pacini. “Memphians too will enjoy the experience of seeing a work of art being made, especially one that is designed specifically for the Brooks and the city. The process is fascinating, which is why we will post time-lapse footage of his progress daily.”

Ekpuk’s artworks are in such collections as the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art, Newark Museum, The World Bank, Hood Museum, Krannert Art Museum, United States Art in Embassies Art Collection and Fidelity Investment Art Collection.

Mission:Founded in 1916 and located at 1934 Poplar Ave. in historic Overton Park, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art  is home to Tennessee’s oldest and largest  major collection of world art.  More than 10,000 works make up the Brooks Museum’s permanent collection, including works from ancient Greece, Rome and the Americas; Renaissance masterpieces from Italy; English portraiture; American painting and decorative arts; contemporary art; and a survey of African art. The Brooks Museum enriches the lives of our diverse community through the museum’s expanding collection, varied exhibitions, and dynamic programs that reflect the art of world cultures from antiquity to the present. For more information about the Brooks and all other exhibitions and programs, call 901.544.6200 or visit www.brooksmuseum.org.

Art from everywhere. An experience for everyone.
For more information, contact: Karen Davis Memphis Brooks Museum of Art Office: 901.544.6219 Cell: 901.206.8810 Karen.Davis@brooksmuseum.org

VICTOR EKPUK Featured on Konbini.com!!

7 Feb

Victor Ekpuk Perfectly Blends Writing And Painting Into Vibrant Art

Nigeria-born Washington-based contemporary artist, Victor Ekpuk, creates breathtakingly vibrant pieces which seamlessly merge the art of writing and painting.

His work, which began as an exploration of Nsibidi  – a centuries-old Nigerian system of writing that uses symbols instead of words or sounds – has now evolved into an exploration of the human condition.

ekpuk-big-fat-hen-lagos

Victor Ekpuk (Photo Tom Saarta )

Victor Ekpuk (Photo Mabeye Deme)

The aesthetic philosophy of Nsibidi, where simple signs convey complex ideas, led Ekpuk to further explore the art of drawing as a form of communication. It also led Ekpuk to invent his own hieroglyphic symbols.

Speaking about the themes of his work on his website, Ekpuk said:

“The subject matter of my work deals with the human condition explained through themes that are both universal and specific: family, gender, politics, culture and identity.”

Check out the rest of his work on his website and his Instagram.

ekpuk-dis-is-lagos-lagos-suites

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

ekpuk-head-6

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

ekpuk-head-3

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

ekpuk-head-2

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

ekpuk-returnee

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

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(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

VICTOR EKPUK at the Tang Museum at Skidmore College

6 Sep
 

 

 

ekpuk-ephemeral-cuba

Ekpuk creating a wall drawing “Meditations on Memory” at the 2015 Havana biennale, Cuba.

Victor Ekpuk at the Tang Museum

September14th, 2016 – Artist Victor Ekpuk will create a new wall drawing at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College as part of the exhibition  “Sixfold Symmetry: Pattern in Art and Science.”

LECTURES AND CONVERSATIONS
Victor Ekpuk and Lisa Aronson, “Sixfold Symmetry”: 
4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. A “Dunkerley Dialogue” with artist Victor Ekpuk and Skidmore professor emeritus Lisa Aronson discussing Ekpuk’s large-scale wall drawing.

Venue:
The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College
815 North Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Phone: 518-580-8080

For more information at https://www.tang.skidmore.edu/

 

Click HERE to view available artwork by VICTOR EKPUK.

VICTOR EKPUK’s Manuscript Series in the permanent collection of the Newark Museum

10 Sep

ekpku should the moon meet us apart

 

“Should the Moon Meet Us Apart, May the Sun Find Us Together”, 2000.

Acrylic and copper wire on prayer boards.

Gift of Prof. Simon Ottenberg to the permanent collection of Newark Museum.

 

About The Manuscript Series:

My continuous search for indigenous codes and forms to tell visual stories led me to the discovery of Islamic prayer boards (walaha). The first idea to use walaha as an art medium first struck me in 1995, at a market in Jos, Nigeria, where I saw unused boards on display for sale.

I was attracted to their unique shapes, I was also fascinated by the ingenuity of African aesthetics and how it added meaning to Arabic scripts; I began to see how these boards could tell other stories and bear other meanings. My vision of the potential of the board as a bearer of two important elements of African spirituality and literacy was so strong that, I could not get it out of my head until it was realized. Works in this series are called “Manuscript Series”

“Manuscript Series”, though executed on walaha do not make statements about Islam; rather they are an intercultural marriage of form and script. Instead of Arabic scripts, I employ Nsibidi signs and my own script-like drawings to make compositions with themes that center  on the human conditions of joy, pain and hope.

I try to manipulate the materials so the mystical essence of the board and that of Nsibidi signs are retained. The goal being to create contemporary sacred tablets whose verses tell our stories, hold our prayers and perhaps provide healing and inspiration to us.

-Victor Ekpuk

Visit Morton Fine Art for available artworks by VICTOR EKPUK.

http://www.mortonfineart.com

Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

(202) 628-2787

mortonfineart@gmail.com

 

VICTOR EKPUK interviewed in Hood Museum of Art “Quarterly” Dartmouth College

23 Jun

Victor Ekpuk-Hood Museum Quarterly

 

A Conversation with Victor Ekpuk

Victor Ekpuk’s ephemeral wall drawings demonstrate the artist’s site-specific adaptation of his drawing approach to architectural working surfaces. Created without preliminary sketches or pre-formed ideas, the murals emerge out of the physical spaces they ultimately occupy, functioning much like the symbolic forms that mark sacred spaces and shrine walls in traditional societies in Africa. In this interview conducted in advance of his visit to Dartmouth, Ekpuk discusses his wall drawings with Curator of African Art Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi.

Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi (SN): We are very happy to have your exhibition Auto-Graphics on view at the Hood. We are even more excited that you are creating a wall drawing—the largest of your wall drawings to date— in Lathrop Gallery in conjunction with this exhibition. It is my understanding that it was the context of an earlier exhibition in Amsterdam that sparked what has become a critical aspect of your practice, the ephemeral wall drawings. Can you talk about this experience?

Victor Ekpuk (VE): During a 2008 artist-in-residency program at Thami Mnyele Foundation in the Netherlands, I was invited to participate in an exhibition to mark the launching of ZAM magazine. The exhibition included works of celebrated South African artist Marlene Dumas as well as other artists and poets from Africa. I proposed to do a mural drawing based on the memory of my life in the Netherlands. Amsterdam Central was an encapsulation of my experience as a transient visitor there. I was intrigued by the idea that the drawing that I would spend several hours making on a gallery wall would eventually be erased to make space for another artwork. I saw this as a metaphor for life itself. The knowledge that I exist at one moment in time only to exit for something else to fill the space that I once occupied was a very humbling realization. On one level, Amsterdam Central was just an expression of the essence of the Netherlands from my perspective as a visitor. On another, I was probing an inner dialogue with existential reality.

SN: Memory is central to your practice and even more fundamental to your wall drawings, which is why you call them “drawing memories.” You have framed memory as received, imagined, transposed, and appropriated. Why does memory hold such fascination for you?

VE: I believe that our self-consciousness is borne from memory. Through self consciousness we form our identities. I observe identity as an ephemeral condition that is always in flux. As you rightly noted, memories are constantly being imagined, transposed, and appropriated. So in “drawing memories,” I am trying to capture these various selves in my stream of consciousness. I am very intrigued by the realization that essentially we are all a sum of different parts that are shaped by circumstances. There is always recognition of some personal memory in the collective. Because it is, after all, a human story. Some these memories are what have shaped my life or the lives of people I have come in contact with.

SN: You once told me that your creative process involves moments of quietude in which you dig deep into your memory bank for visual clarity and intellectual materials to work with. How does the creative process involved in the making of the wall drawings differ from your regular studio process?

VE: The process for drawing on the wall differs, in some ways, from studio practice because I prefer it to be spontaneous. I usually prefer not to think about what I am going to draw until I am in the space, at which time I let the space and what I feel at that moment determine what direction the composition will take.

SN: Your wall drawings do not exactly present cohesive narratives or offer formal points of entry for the viewer, although one must admit that there is a logic to the way you amass the script like symbols on the wall surface. Is that a reflection of your understanding of the way memory works?

VE: While drawing, my hand responds to a stream of consciousness, a flow of images from my mind. During this instant I let go and lose myself in the moment. Yes, in a way that’s how our conscious minds work: we exercise our abilities to sift through memories and focus on those that are relevant to immediate attention.

SN: You have also described your wall drawings as performance. Is this because you draw upon nsibidi, the autochthonous body of symbols used in visual and gestured communication by the Ekpe secret society in southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon?

VE: Yes, the performative and the ephemeral aesthetics of nsibidi remain strong influences on my artistic process and production. In the outward display of knowledge, members of the secret society that practice nsibidi usually engage in “mbre,” meaning play of nsibidi. It involves challenging one another to decipher coded graphic signs that are marked on the ground. In other instances, nsibidi signs are used as coded messages, marked either on the ground or on objects, and sometimes as arrangements of objects. It is worth noting that in all of these instances, the signs are always ephemeral. They are often wiped off once the play is over or the message has been received.

SN: Although nsibidi was a point of departure for you at the beginning of your practice, to what extent do you still rely on its repertoire of pictographic and ideographic scripts in your wall drawings?

VE: I’ve found myself using less of nsibidi in my work in general. Having imbibed the nsibidi aesthetic philosophy of focusing on the essence of form or thought to communicate ideas, application of this principle comes in very handy when I approach a composition or design idea. As a means to fully engage this aesthetic philosophy, I made the series of large drawings called Composition Series, which are on view as part of Auto-Graphics, where I explored nsibidi symbols not for their meaning but for their aesthetics and abstract forms.

SN: How many of these wall drawings have you made and how do they differ from each other?

VE: Starting from my first drawing in Amsterdam in 2008 to what I will create at the Hood Museum of Art, I will have made six wall drawings in all. Mickey on Broadway, my second mural, was created in a Washington, D.C., gallery in 2011. It considered my identity as both African and American. It was partly mixed media, and included five Mickey Mouse–shaped plastic bowls placed above African-inspired forms. Meditations on Memories, also created in a gallery in 2011, was more abstract and contemplative. It was the first time I worked strictly with white chalk on a black wall. This was also the first time I was actively involved in the erasure of my wall drawing. In other works—such as Drawing Memories at Appalachian State University in 2013, and an untitled drawing at Krannert Art Museum and Ode to Joy at Arkansas Art Center, both in 2014—I was more interested in capturing the intrinsic aesthetics of objects and forms. Ode to Joy, a dialogue with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, was my first attempt at drawing music. With headphones on my ears, I attempted to translate the imagery formed from the elation I felt. I was like the conductor of an orchestra, enthralled in raptures of violins, kettledrums, cellos, trumpets, cymbals, and the roaring voices in harmonious chants as the crescendos built and ecstasies exploded in my heart.

The exhibition Auto-Graphics: Works by Victor Ekpuk, on view through August 2, was organized by Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and curated by Allyson Purpura. It was partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. The exhibition’s presentation at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, was generously supported by the Leon C. 1927, Charles L. 1955, and Andrew J. 1984 Greenebaum Fund and the Cissy Patterson Fund

 

Please contact Morton Fine Art for a pdf version of this interview or click the following link: http://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/docs/2015summerquarterlywebready.pdf

Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

(202) 628-2787, mortonfineart@gmail.com, http://www.mortonfineart.com

VICTOR EKPUK’s “Hip Sistas in Flux : The Visual-Lingual Braid” reviewed by ArtCentron

27 May

ART

May 25, 2015 

Hairstyles, Tattoos and Body Markings Signifier Women’s Pride

posted by ARTCENTRON

Hairstyles, Tattoos and Body Markings Signifier Women’s Pride

Victor Ekpuk, Asian Uboikpa (Hip Sista) Series #.11, 2015 . acrylic on canvas 60′ x 48′. Image courtesy of Morton Fine Art

REVIEW

Victor Ekpuk’s new drawings and paintings investigate hairstyles and body markings as forms of self-expression and pride among women

BY KAZAD

Victor Ekpuk, Asian Uboikpa (Hip Sista) #10, 2014, one of the paintings investigating the importance of hairstyles and body markings of women in Diaspora

WASHINGTON DC.- Several years ago, Victor Ekpuk began exploring the art of hairstyles and body markings among young women of southeastern Nigeria. His objective was not just aesthetics but also the need to reveal the importance of hairstyles and body markings as forms of self-expression and pride among African women. The result of that exploration is a collection of paintings Ekpuk titled Mbobo or Maiden Series.

The paintings and drawings that emerged from Ekpuk’s investigation of the art of hairstyles and body markings among young women of southeastern Nigeria are very instructive. They illuminate how effective hairstyles and body markings are efficient means of accentuating pride and self-actualization among African women. The Mbobo(maiden) Series go from series 1 to 10. The oil on canvas paintings emphasis the importance of hair to black/African women and why it is often described as the crown of her glory.

While many of the paintings and drawings from the Mbobo (maiden) Series address the importance of women’s hairstyles among African women, they also bring to focus the creativity of the hairstylists who create the amazing hair designs. Many of the hairstylists and designers learned their crafts through apprenticeship, from relatives, and friends. Although many of the hairstyles continue to conform to traditions, others have evolved to accommodate modern ideas.

Historically, hairstyles and body markings have been integral to African societies. Hairstyles, body markings, and tattoos are not just a source of pride and self-expression but also signifier of status and aesthetics. In some Nigerian societies, hairstyles and body markings indicate the position and status of women. Among the Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa, for instance, hairstyles, body markings, and tattoos are effective means of establishing the authorities of woman.

Since that first exploration about 2008, Ekpuk has continued to explore the theme of hairstyle designs in his works, expanding his oeuvres to include body markings, tattoos and body scarifications. Presently at the Morton Fine Art in Washington DC is an exhibition that illustrates Ekpuk’s expansion of the art of hairstyle design from the Nigerian context to the Diaspora.

Titled Asian Uboikpa (Hip Sistas) in Flux: The Visual-Lingual Braid, the exhibition uses the exploration of hairstyles and body markings in southeastern Nigeria as the pedestal for investigating the culture of hairstyles and body markings in the Diaspora. Asian Uboikpa, an Ibibio expression, references proud young women and virgins, while Hip Sista is an African American term used to describe highly fashionable women.

In his recent paintings examining hairstyles and body markings, Ekpuk continues to expand his use of Nsibidi, the West African ideographic, to create a visual language that has situated him at the center of contemporary African art discourse in the West. Unlike in the past when his use of and interpretation of Nsibidi was limited to Nigeria and Africa, in his recent paintings, the West African ideographic system bridges the contemporary mode and cultural heritage.

The motifs inherent in Ekpuk’s recent paintings emulate designs of African fabrics design, jewelry, piecing, tattoos and scarification in such a way that dispenses with a singular cultural identity. There is a hybridization of forms and ideas from multiple sources and cultures. For a Nigerian artist who has travelled the globe presenting his works in museums and galleries, the confluence of ideas is not unusual.

The focus of many of the paintings and drawings on exhibition in Asian Uboikpa (Hip Sistas) in Flux: The Visual-Lingual Braid is content over form. There is a deliberate attempt to elevate substance over form in many of the paintings that are characterized by backgrounds with heavy motifs.

Please contact Morton Fine Art for available artworks by VICTOR EKPUK. 

Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009, (202) 628-2787, http://www.mortonfineart.com , mortonfineart@gmail.com

To read this article in full please visit the following link: http://artcentron.com/2015/05/25/hairstyles-signifier-pride/#prettyPhoto