Last week I was in London’s Shoreditch district admiring the various works of art on public display. Until this weekend, the Espacio Gallery plays host to the Ajags Gallery’s new exhibition entitled ‘Art Will Find A Way.’ The exhibition is a group show, comprising of the distinct and individual works of four artists – Mayowa Ajagunna (of the Ajags Gallery), Saman Gedara, Mary Osinibi and Princess Idowu – all connected by a shared interest in the wildly imaginative nature of artistic expressions (but diverse in their creativity) that includes painting, photography, sculpture, installation and mixed media.
‘Art Will Find A Way‘ is a concept that presents the idea of open-mindedness, optimism, positivity and being able to resolve or deal with whatever situation you find yourself in. The art is inspirational, thought provoking and invites you to enjoy the directness of the work. Without doubt there are paintings some may need sensitivity in handling but this selection of work only encourages you to look at the subject matters from a wider perspective, as an active participant and not just a passive observer. With this in mind, I was particularly keen to ask the gallery’s founder Mayowa Ajagunna about his work and the show.
Q- How did you get into painting?
I didn’t get into painting. Painting was already a part of me and all I did was to show that side of me to the world.
Q-Your works appear to carry a personal, intense and intimate connection with the viewer. What motivates you to paint?
Legacy – the idea of leaving something timeless behind appeals to me a lot. Communication – its a medium I use communicate, so that I can be very well understood. Expression – as cliche as this might sound, painting when you’re angry, down, sad, stressed or worried actually elevates a problem from ones mind.
Q- How did the theme of “Art will find a way’ come about?
“Art Will Find A Way” is a quote I learnt from a friend I studied Art A levels with in college almost 15 years ago. Today I still very much believe in it because to me it reflects on everyday life struggles and having a strong mindset, discipline, focus and determination to see yourself through difficult situations.
Q-Can you tell us more about the Ajag Gallery?
Correction “Ajags Gallery” like the name says ‘Ajags Gallery’ is for all of ‘Ajags’ Artworks lol. Just like a Salvador Dali Gallery or a Picasso Gallery.
I’m not your typical high street gallery that seeks to rob artists for a 50% commission on artworks. I am an independent artist that exhibits solo. For the first time I am having a group show with other artist and its called “Art Will Find A Way.”
Q-When and where will we see the next Ajags Gallery?
Next year summer most likely, this is the first of its kind that we intend to do every year. Where exactly, well somewhere around Brick Lane, so long as it remains the contemporary art hub of London. Nigeria, Africa is also a strong possibility.
I wish Mayowa and his colleagues the very best with the show. I encourage you to see this if you are in London over the next week. For further information please visit the http://www.ajagsgallery.com
She Has a Name, the 2016 Canadian drama by the Kooman brothers, was released in the UK this month and will be shown at selected cinemas across the country during the coming weeks. The film’s primary focus is the harrowing story of two young girls who become victims of trafficking in Thailand. The film highlights the level of human trafficking, the height of corruption and the power businessmen yield from such a despicable activity. Please click on the link to read my review of the film for Occhi Magazine.
This week I had the pleasure to meet artist Jon Daniel at the launch of his latest exhibition entitled ’Black Space.’ The show is small collection of iconographic poster artworks celebrating black screen heroines and heroes from the world of Sci-Fi.
Science Fiction is a very interesting genre, particularly when a majority of big budget movie blockbusters throughout the years have depicted a rather morbid and apocalyptic future, where people of the African diaspora are near extinction or only represented by one supporting character. I guess the same can be said of many genres including historical epics such as Cleopatra or the recent Gods of Egypt. It was refreshing see a show celebrating iconic figures such as Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura and Morpheus from the Matrix Trilogy. My only disappointment was the limited number of works displayed.
I have noticed and welcome the growing popularity of Afrofuturism and Jon Daniel, the man behind the Afro Supa Hero collection, contributes to this comprehensively. Classically trained as a graphic designer, Jon has worked largely as an art director for a number of London’s leading advertising agencies. He has also co-founded two creative companies -Headland, a creative partnership and ebb&flow®, a boutique branding company creating work for a range of corporate, cultural and public sector clients. The artist has created a reputation in the cultural arena. This is includes curating “Post-Colonial: Stamps from the African Diaspora” and “JA50” exhibitions with global stamp emporium, Stanley Gibbons. His exhibition ‘Afro Supa Hero’, based on his personal collection of black action figures and comic books exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in 2014.
Black Space runs from today to October 31st at Upstairs At the Ritzy, Brixton, London SW2. Check it out if you’re in the vicinity. For more info on the artist visit https://twitter.com/jondaniel66
A fellow artist and friend kindly forwarded this TED video featuring conceptual artist Sanford Biggers. I thought to share it. The artist uses painting, sculpture, video and performance to spark challenging conversations about the history and trauma of black America. He details two compelling works and shares the motivation behind his art. “Only through more thoughtful dialogue about history and race can we evolve as individuals and society,” Biggers says.
A few years ago I had the pleasure to blog about the very talented Fae Simon, whose track ‘New Londinium’ featured on my video Let’s Jam. We caught up recently to discuss her music, her career to date and future projects we can all look forward to knowing more about.
Q- Since your debut album ‘Melodrama’ you’ve been extremely busy touring and collaborating with various artist. What’s the theme and general inspiration for your second album?
FS- My inspiration for Outrospective was my observations of all the people I encountered while on tour with Yarah Bravo & Jehst. I saw first hand the true power of music in action; as it didn’t matter wherever we went and performed the love of music unified us all. It is also a critique of my environment, as I believe it is the responsibility of all good creatives to do so, and to try and affect change though our art.
For example, ‘Running’ is dedicated to Mark Duggan and the residents of Tottenham, following his death and the subsequent riots. I was actually stuck in the studio for 5 days unable to get home, as they’d blocked off the whole of Tottenham High Road, so it allowed me to reflect on the situation and write the song for the album.
Q- Has this album been easier to produce?
FS- No, not at all. Besides personal issues I had during the creation of the album, I had some unforeseeable and predictable obstacles to hurdle to complete it.
It was more stressful trying to get the administration of the initial collaborations finalised than actually writing and creating the music. I had to re-record some tracks with the band but they were the most fun to do and nothing can touch the sound and feeling of live music, so it worked out as it was supposed to.
Q- You’re a multi-disciplined artist. Apart from promoting the new album, what else does the immediate future hold for you?
FS- my new single ‘The One That Got Away’ is due for release in April, produced by CloudFistConceptz, with remixes by DJ Raw Sugar, Shaun Ashby & Beyond Tone. The video is due for release in 2wks, directed by Chiba Visuals.
I am making my acting debut on March 19th at the University of West London for national storytelling week, in a production called ‘Soweto Voices’. It’s raising awareness of Apartheid and celebrating South African culture.
The cast are all 25 and under, so I’m the only artist/tutor who also gets to perform, so I’m extremely excited, having studied drama from GCSE to degree, and this being my first professional drama production.
I am also raising my fine art profile this year. I have been commissioned for murals and exhibited in London, New York and Berlin, so I know I have a market, I just need to build my portfolio this year. I have been offered an exhibition in Copenhagen with a certain amazing fine artist called David Emmanuel, so I should be ready to take on the art world by then.
. Q- Yes, the Scandinavian connection is still in the making! lol You’ve spent time in Germany, amongst other places recently. In light of the very public discussion over a lack of diversity in the arts, do you have any particular views or experiences that support a call for a greater degree of representation?
FS – I think all people who are of an ethnic background who live and work in the West feel underrepresented.
Of course that is something that needs to be addressed, as only last week, for the first time in a long time, there was a black family in anadvert (I believe it’s the new Samsung ad) and other black people noticed enough for them to comment.
It’s a sad state of affairs when that is a noticeably surprising occurrence on television in the 21st century, so how can we be too surprised when no black actors or directors are nominated for Oscars?
I think it was last year or the year before there was public outrage when Viola Davis was called “not classically beautiful”, as opposed to Kerry Washington. Both beautiful black protagonists in major US dramas, but I guess Viola’s features were considered too classically African to be classically beautiful?
As someone who studied dance and drama to degree level, I was very much used to being the token representative for my whole race in a lot of circumstances; or the class or project would reflect the country on a microcosmic ethnic level. It amused me, as stereotypically black people are artistically creative, yet I would always be 1 of 1 or 1 of 3 – from the age of 8-21.
Since I was a child representation has meagrely improved, or is still prejudiced to the point of subliminal, (i.e. Zayn Malik’s Pillowtalk video) so we can only continue to take a stand, make some noise and continually voice the injustice or our silence will be misconstrued as acceptance.
Once again, it’s a delight to befriend another hugely ambitious, motivational and multi talented artist. My latest featured artist goes by the name of Tiffany (Unscripted) from New York state. Tiffany is definitely setting an example in what it means to be artistic. She agreed to share some of her aspirations and highlight drivers that contribute to her inspirational creativity.
You’re a writer, filmmaker, photographer, designer and poet to name some of your interests and skills. If forced to describe yourself under one of these disciplines what would you choose?
Oh, no! I couldn’t choose. My love and passion is equal for each. [laughing] In retrospect, I can say each skill has evolved from another. I started writing poetry in my teens. I would spend hours under a massive tree in Thornden Park, composing several poems. When I reached my twenties I started writing short stories and nonfiction. My creative outlet expanded to include media and design. I started doing photography and film out of necessity. I needed a photographer for a few projects. They were either too expensive or unreliable. I purchased my first camera, a Canon Rebel XT from a pawn shop, to shoot my first concert. It was Tech N9ne Hostile Takeover Tour 2012, at Celebrity Theater. From that project, my love grew for capturing moments. My first film project was an impromptu recording of my friend’s music video on my Samsung galaxy SIII. Currently, my focus is photography. My goal is to enhance my skills, to include high-fashion and editorial. I’m really excited because it’s for an online magazine I’m launching January 1, 2016. It’s called Occhi Magazine. I’m creating a fashion lookbook for it.
Where do you find your inspiration?
People, places, and things. Tomorrow is never promised. So, I live in the moment. This has expanded my view of the world. My analysis of the what, why, and how has broadened. I can look at anything and see art. This translates into creating something. It can be either graphic design or a haiku. Many of us fail to see the beauty in the world. It’s no fault of our own. We are constantly besieged with news of death, destruction, and sorrow. My outlet has always been art. Whenever I experience stress I create something; writing, designing, filming, or photographing helps me to relax.
Are there any particular artist you’re most proud to have worked with?
Yes, my friends. [laughing] I value their friendship, as well as their experience. We often share creative ideas. For instance, one of my friends has created a Star Wars, inspired music video. It turned out exceptionally well! It was shot in Yuma, Arizona. I’m located in Upstate, NY and couldn’t make the filming. I kept telling him how I wished I could have been there to capture the experience in a documentary!
Are they any particular artists you would like to work with?
This is where I’m supposed to name someone famous or highly-celebrated. But I’ve always been a champion for the underdog. My interest is mainly other independents, who strive to create exceptional work. It can be someone relatively unknown; someone who is still learning a new skill. Creativity is fueled by passion. Passion can be infectious, enlightening, and a catalyst for your own desire to create a beautiful piece.
Can you tell me more about your magazine and media company?
It all began with Mia Bella Occhi™. Mia Bella Occhi™ is an affordable online fashion boutique offering curated finds of unique sunglasses, clear lens eyewear, and fashion accessories, such as hats, scarves, and jewelry. It’s for fashionistas and fashionistos, who value a mixture of trendy, sophistication, style, and comfort. I wanted “everyday” people to know style is not what you wear. It is who you are. The magazine spawned from this idea. I thought I should create a visual display of what people can wear. I don’t use professional models. Instead, I ask people who never modeled to showcase the fashions. I want the boutique and magazine to be organic and accessible to everyone, no matter their economic status. This is the main reason why I added Frugal But Fashionable and Reclaim Recycle Restyle. Frugal But Fashionable proves you can still look great using thrifty buys. Reclaim Recycle Restyle showcases designers who craft handmade fashions, such as jewelry, clothing, and other upcycled creations. The designers and their creations will be featured in the magazine and lookbook.
Creatives tend to think outside the box but is it easy to fuse your disciplines into an entity that is recognised or appreciated by the general public? Do people easily see relationships between visual arts, fashion and other creative professions?
Yes. Art is subjective. Personally, I do not create for the public. I create things I’m passionate about. I recently held an online art exhibition on my Instagram page. It was titled ‘Completely Unexpected.” Abstract art was created using a mathematical algorithm, and then blended with computer-generated, paint brushstrokes. It was well received. Most exciting was the nods received from art museums. That was absolutely thrilling! I’m planning my next exhibition for spring 2016. Stay tuned! I will use my new Nikon D7200 camera for this piece. I can’t wait to shoot with it!
What are the highs and lows of running an independent boutique, magazine and film production company?
I don’t see highs and lows. I see peaks and valleys – much healthier perspective, indeed! [laughing] All challenges are good. That’s how one learns. People see the effort you put into your work. I prefer being recognized for my work. For me, it’s more meaningful. People see the drive and passion. Being recognized for only your accomplishments is like saying you only rate when you receive a reward. I believe a person should be rewarded for effort alone. Perhaps, this is why I find it challenging to sell my art. I do it solely for passion, not recognition. Funny. I recently read a debate over what makes a photographer an amateur or profession. Many argued being paid for the photo session makes you a professional. I beg to differ. I shot high-profile, music concerts as press and media. I wasn’t paid for the work. I did it because it was my passion to do so, and I wanted to prove it’s not the equipment, it’s the user that defines professionalism. That was the first concert previously mentioned.
The world is an open door of opportunities for someone with the right mind-set. As a creative professional in a very competitive environment what encouraging words would you share with young, inspired and multi skilled people reading this article?
Two words: Do you. As long as you remember art is subjective, you can create anything you imagine. People will either like or dislike your creations. Expect it. Just don’t let it prevent you for creating the most wonderful piece, yet, to be discovered – YOU!
Once again, I’m delighted to be a participant in the Peace Projects traveling exhibition. Proceeds from the Call for Artists and the Traveling Exhibit will fund initial costs for the Peace Centre in Africa, help bring skills training to the Peace Centre in the Philippines, and provide critical aid to Syrian refugees.
The show has three segments; a mosaic of art featuring all Peace Project artists, a further 120 artworks displayed as 12″ x 12″ panels and a themed show entitled “Gaza Rises’ featuring the work of ten artists from Gaza.
The exhibit will be unveiled at the 5th Affair of the Arts event at 9300 Culver Blvd. in Downtown Culver City on September 19th & 20th. The show will then tour including a stop at the Landmark Arts Building, New York City on October 15.
I’m happy to be supporting the Peace Project as it continues to be behind worthwhile causes. The Peace Project has help educate dozens of children in Sierra Leone, distributed 10,000 pairs of crutches to amputees & war victims in Sierra Leone and designed a Peace Museum for Sierra Leone in conjunction with the United Nations.
The Peace Project is currently working to bring skills training to the Peace Centre in the Philippines and designing a Peace Centre that will be built in Sierra Leone adjacent to the Slaughter House, one of the most infamous sites of violence during the recent civil war. Sierra Leone’s Peace Centre will be operated in collaboration with trusted partners from Community Association for Psychosocial Services.