Renault Showroom, Victoria Island, , Lagos, Nigeria 09 Apr 2016 - 30 Apr 2016
Big Fat Hen, After Wynton Marsalis, c. 2015. Acrylic on wood 82 x 95 in. (208 x 241.5 cm.)
Coming Home is the title of Victor Ekpuk’s first solo exhibition in Nigeria since leaving for the United States in 1999.
The works in the exhibition are the result of a four-month creativity residency as the inaugural artistin-residence of the Art House Foundation new initiative in the fall of 2016 and a previous three-month residency as a guest of the Omooba Yemisi Shyllon Foundation (OYASAF) in 2013.
During Victor Ekpuk’s residency, the Arthouse Foundation will organise an intensive schedule of public programming including an artist talk, five-day workshop, panel discussion, mentorship with secondary school students, and visits to university art departments.
Coming Home” is a very special exhibition for me. In 2013, when Arthouse Contemporary offered to host a solo exhibition of my works in Lagos, I proposed to come and do a residency in order to make the works at home.
I wanted my first solo exhibition in Nigeria in over a decade to be relevant to my experience of the place where I call “home”, the place where my career was launched. Even though I no longer inhabit this cultural, social, and geographical space, “home” still feeds my artistic imagination.
On arrival in Nigeria, I opened myself to the influences of my daily experiences and interactions with people in the society. I chose the perspective of a “Returnee”, an outsider looking in, while walking familiar streets and participating in familiar rituals of life in Nigeria. The goal was to let these experiences impact the outcome of the works I would make here.
Themes in my recent works have gravitated towards investigating an African belief of the human condition as predisposed by the condition of the metaphysical “Head”. As I traversed different socio-economic spaces, I found a common theme in the human condition; people are literally and metaphorically carrying things in and on their heads. The man at the bus stop screaming curses at the devil, the street hawkers carrying their wares on their heads, the fashionable women in Nigerian high society with their wigs, weaves, and elaborates head-ties. Perhaps in Nigeria, there is a connection between the loads on the head and the resolve to absolutely live daily “By the Grace of God” as a response to their existence. These observations provided materials and forms for works in “Home Coming”.
Prior to coming to Nigeria, exploring lines in three dimensions had long occupied my thoughts and sketchpads. Four “Icons” are now realized sculptures, with the assistance of Etang Francis, my residency studio assistant, and Fidelis Odogwu, a Lagos-based metal artist. I look forward to expanding the scope of works in this genre.
The time spent, as an Artist-in-Residence at Arthouse Foundation was a very rewarding opportunity to “refuel”, experiment with new ideas, and mentor a young artist.
Thank you to Kavita and Amisha for inviting me and providing a great space; to Aditya for always answering my Lagos weekend socials SOS calls; and to Jackie and Amisha for the great parties. I am grateful to Nana, Sumbo, and Tonato, as well as all the Chellaram house staff, who ensured that the requirements for my living and work environments were sufficient. And to my family, old friends and new ones I met, you made my coming home a real treasure.
-Victor Ekpuk, 2016
On view until 30th April at Renault Showroom, Victoria Island, Lagos
The Arthouse Foundation is a non-profit organisation that aims to encourage the creative development of contemporary art in Nigeria. Through a residency-based programme, the Arthouse Foundation provides a platform for artists to expand their practice and experiment with new art forms and ideas. By establishing a network that supports cross-cultural exchange between Nigerian and international artists, the Arthouse Foundation embraces contemporary art as an educational model to engage communities, promote social dialogue and advance the critical discourse of artistic practices.