Victor Ekpuk’s art is infectious. His images envelope you like a massive ancient blanket created by intuitive aliens that come in visual peace. The symbols in his work seem too complex to decipher at first glance. But as you ponder what you are viewing, you start to realize that you actually understand them. You understand that you are viewing a spiritual soul stirring script that has somehow been passed down from the ancestors. It is no surprise that Victor’s roots are in the motherland because his creations have a maternal sternness enshrined in a massive dose of otherworldly love.
“I think of my style as the vocabulary that I have been speaking for over twenty-five years. This was inspired by the aesthetic concepts of indigenous African …”
Please tell us a little about yourself – your childhood, siblings, where you grew up, what you liked as a child, strange thoughts as a child/now, unique attributes, where you live now, etc.?
I was born in Nigeria about 52 years ago. I have four siblings. As a child, fun was drawing on whatever surface was available. I would often leave other kids at the playground to find my own private space where imaginary forms were more comforting company. At a very early age, I could draw realistic representations of objects before I could read and write in school. By 2nd grade I could make portraits of family members with very close resemblance. I hold a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from University of Ife in Nigeria. I now live and work in Washington DC area.
How do you describe your form of art and what tools do you primarily use?
I think of my style as the vocabulary that I have been speaking for over twenty-five years. This was inspired by the aesthetic concepts of indigenous African art forms and writing systems which I have reimagined to create a personal style of mark making that are interplay of art and writing. My tools range from graphite, pastels, chalks to acrylics.
I am particularly interested in drawing, though I am always eager to experiment with processes and materials; I tend to envision the possibilities of my work in more than one medium. So far, I have created work using acrylic paint and dry media like pastel and graphite swell as digital media and sculptures – my most recent being a wearable art project where I’m making art on apparel and accessories.
Please let us know about your interesting foray into wearable art apparel and how the whole idea came about?
The idea of exploring the possibilities of my work beyond the traditional canvas led me to start project – VICTOR EKPUK LIMITED EDITION WEARABLE ART. Once I wore a print of my work on t-shirt, I was taken aback by the reaction of people who wished to share the experience of wearing my art. This project is a response to this reaction, to give people who otherwise could not afford it easy access to my work. In these pieces, I have extended my canvas to apparel in a limited edition collection of wearable art and accessories. This project emerges from the synergy between compositions from my original works and contemporary fashion. Some garments carry never-before-seen artworks, while some designs are reimagined from my original paintings.
This project liberates my art from the walls unto the body, and allows others to use my art as their own form of self-expression. Currently, only t-shirts and tote bags are available, I hope to add silk scarves and shawls later on.
The wearable art is made on demand, with the artist’s signature on each piece. Each design is unique, created for the proposed canvas, with a limited run of only 100 pieces for each design. Check it out at www.victorekpuklimitededitions.com
What does your art mean to you?
My art is my voice, my dream, my breath and my parallel universe where I go to and recreate life as I see it.
Which artists do you look up to the most?
I am not sure if I look up to them per se, but their works have greatly inspired me in terms of aesthetic philosophy: Anish Kapoor, Obiora Udechukwu and El Anatsui.
Your images are flooded with symbolic detail and your larger pieces have an enveloping/capturing quality to them – how did you create this unique style and why do you think are you pulled to create images of this manner?
When I work, I tap into a stream of consciousness that I cannot fully explain or begin to analyze. I am one of those artists who are not very analytical about their process, I get in the moment and I just create.
What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?
I do not recall worst critique. The best compliment is a woman who broke down and cried on viewing my work “Meditations On Memory” at Wilfredo Lam Art center during Havana Biennial 2015.
Do you ever experience deja vu – where are you usually transported to when it happens?
It is often my days as a kid running around playing in the rain on the street in my home town in Nigeria.
Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man?
I prefer, well-groomed hair, simple styled clothing with minimal lines, and subtle colors with dash of bright accessory as accent. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just has to be tasteful. I like stylish contemporary designed accessories; I collect art watches by contemporary designers.
What is your personal life philosophy?
Live and let live.
Who dead or alive, celebrity or not, artist or not, would you like to go on a two week road trip with and why?
Anish Kapoor, (visual artist), why? His works are so cerebral; they almost always give me out-of-body experiences. Perhaps those two weeks will be like attending a spiritual revival with a satguru.
What type of music do you listen to (if at all) when working?
My taste in music is quite eclectic. I listen to what sets the mood for the work on that particular moment. My fav choices are jazz, African rhythms like makossa, highlife, afro-beat, Celtic, new age and sometimes classic rock.
How can people learn more about (or buy) your current and upcoming works?
My Facebook page tends to have regular updates. My website: www.victorekpuk.com. My Instagram: victorekpuk
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