FINAL CLASS AND EXHIBIT: Art and Community Empowerment with Adjani Okpu-Egbe

From July 03, 2019 7:00 pm until July 03, 2019 9:00 pm
Posted by Amy
Categories: Stony Point Center
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This evening is the finale in a 6-week course in which Adjani has explored how art intersects with experiences of war, systemic violence, resiliency and activism, drawing from his experience within the Afrosurrealist Expressionism movement.

Inspired by the people and culture at Stony Point Center, Adjani will display the work he has done during his residency and share about how his practice of “poppabilism” has developed during this time.

Students will be invited to share how the class has impacted them.

All are welcome! Admission is on a sliding scale basis, $5-$50 suggested. Select pieces of art will also be for sale. A portion of the proceeds will go to support the Cordee Hamilton Fund for Artists and the Ambazonia Prisoners of Conscience Support Network.

If you have any questions, please email Adjani at adjani@yahoo.com          Download Flyer

Adjani July3

About the Artist:

Recently featured in the prestigious 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in Manhattan, Adjani is a distinctive voice amongst a new generation of African-born artists. His evocative “Afro Expressionist” style mixes oil paints with found elements to portray at once the every-day human and the mythical levels of political struggles. Examples of his art are hanging in the main hallway of Evergreen building at Stony Point Center -- come take a look! Read Adjani's full bio at https://stonypointcenter.org/art-space/current-artist-in-residence

Artist's Statement:

In 2010, I made 3 paintings that made me think I had discovered a new style that would give a fresh perspective to the Afrosurreal expressionism art movement. To my disappointment, a week after, I found out that my idea wasn’t as fresh as I thought.  It was frustrating but I came to terms with it and continued to work hard believing that one day I would find my own style that would facilitate the understanding of my thinking, the depth of my message and the overall purpose of my work.    

During that period, my work evolved and in 2012 I had a breakthrough following a commission from the BBC to paint the Queen on the occasion of her  Diamond Jubilee.  From that day, I started making a living as an artist and my work caught the attention of more experienced collectors. However, the idea of finding a unique style of making art that would be instantly recognized as an Adjani without having to see my signature on it stayed with me.  It didn’t amount to anything until on the afternoon of 22 May 2013, a British Army soldier, Fusilier Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was attacked and killed by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, southeast London.  

Having read the story in the newspaper the following morning, I felt vulnerable and needed to paint in order to distract myself but I had no canvas in my studio. So I went to a friend’s workshop to pick up a canvas I had delivered there a couple of days earlier. On my way back to my studio, I thought the bubble wrap that was used to protect the canvas looked good as a “montage” and immediately, I saw a painting creeping out of it.

Normally, I consider myself a “strong person” but at that point I felt fragile. With a canvas protected with bubble wrap that was literally  weaker than the canvas itself in my right hand, a newspaper with the story and pictures of a supposedly “strong” soldier murdered in front of his own barracks by two civilians in my left hand, I was inspired to make a painting to reflect and document the story and my thoughts. So I got back to my studio and started painting on the bubble wrap still wrapped over the canvas. I took it out at one point, painted on the canvas then stuck the half painted bubble wrap back on it and glued it down using a glue gun.

I was pleased with the finished work and I called it “Poppable” to convey the message of our “fragility” in our “strength” and vice versa.  To me, the bubble wrap evokes playfulness in a rather serious and solemn subject as death. It reminded me that irrespective of who we are, what we do, where we come from, we can be “popped” or we can “pop” at any time just like the soldier, and just like a bubble wrap which is so fragile that children can playfully pop it but it is still the number one material used in the packaging industry in protecting both fragile, strong, expensive and cheap goods belonging to both privileged and underprivileged people. It reminded me that perhaps we shouldn’t take life too seriously as we sometimes do. Also, I thought maybe privilege shouldn’t have a negative connotation and in discussing aspects of it, a consideration of what the privileged individual has contributed to communities should take priority.

As an artist, I am privileged to have recognition for my work and to be able to make a living out of it. I want to use that to connect with different communities on a personal level grounded in community empowerment through intentional collaborative programs such as volunteering, fund raising, activism and teaching, not in ways that’s intended to change believes but rather in ways that’s intended to improve our understanding of others so as to better our tolerance and overall progress as individuals and community members.  

While here, I have had the time to reflect on the way forward for my work with limited distraction.  Haven  experiment with the idea of bubble wraps for 6 years, haven succeeded in getting the style recognised in contemporary art as my invention, haven now succeeded in getting my work recognised as an Adjani even without seeing my signature, haven secured the right support both in London and in New York to help me grow my plans, I now have a clearer and more confident vision on my way forward.

I wanted to thank the SPC community for providing me the perfect space for inspiration and for the growth of my thoughts by incorporating photo collages of the eyes of randomly chosen members of staff and volunteers in my new paintings for my end of residency show on the 3rd of July. The show would be the launching of my new artistic direction and would give the SPC community an opportunity to own my work and at the same time raise  funds to support the works of IfOR, Cordi Hamilton and Ambazonia Prisoners of Conscience Support Network.