The Gallery of African Art in London is pleased to present Style Fusion, an exhibition of works by the Nigerian photographer Ade ‘Àsìkò’ Okelarin and Kenyan artist-designer, Evans Mbugua.

Àsìkò is a self-taught visual artist who uses the medium of photography to create striking imagery. His work is about “self-exploration” through which he is able to present his interpretation of culture, gender, memory, and identity. He explores these themes by using portraiture, fabric, and adornment – layering the images with light, texture and mood. “Photography for me is about a conversation about how I see myself in the world and how I interpret my African heritage – my form of expression and exploration,” says Àsìkò. The photo-art images in the exhibition are from Àsìkò’s Adorned Series, which is inspired by African tribeswomen, and the significant roles they play throughout their lives – nurturer, hunter, priestess and spouse. Àsìkò celebrates African culture and the strength and beauty of the female form through these creative images. Jewellery is a major focus within the photographs as it is associated with the female’s identity in some cultures. By “adorning” herself, the onlooker is made to recognise the position she holds within her society. The metallic finish on the prints creates soft golden hues – thus further enhancing the opulent jewel theme of the series.

Evans Mbugua’s art is a creative medley of colour and print detail captured in portraiture. Evans comes from a graphic design background, having majored in Print Design, elements of which are visibly demonstrated in his artistic technique. He has researched and studied the significance of traditional African writings – how signs and symbols have been used to communicate over the years, forming a cultural reference point in society for expressing and re-interpreting ideas, thoughts, feelings, and desires. For Evans, design and art form the perfect symbiosis: they are “in sync”. Experimentation has led him to explore and develop his creative process. He does not merely utilise prints to enhance his portraits, he also includes the aspect of re-interpreting prints – a twist on a modern sign or symbol creates an unusual dazzling design. Creating a layered effect, the print forms a backdrop and then the portrait is placed within the foreground. The portrait is uniquely created by using a series of small-dot effects on the glass or perspex– his medium of choice. Evan says, “My work today is an attempt to revisit these creative processes from a personal contemporary perspective and setting. In my view, art should serve as a link to communicate and unite people as opposed to alienating us from each other. This is perhaps the reason why I use urban signs and pictograms in my quest to create a universal link through contemporary art. The motifs that I create are composed of common pictograms with which we interact on a daily basis, be it on the streets, on a product label, food packaging…. The dots in my work are a metaphor to « join the dots » around our environment and get to experience the bigger picture which is more human, harmonious and hopefully beautiful.”

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Evans Mbugua, Selfie, oil Paint on lexiglass with photo paper , 2016

Ade ‘Àsìkò’ Okelarin is a self-taught Nigerian photographer born in 1978. He spent his formative years in Nigeria before moving to London in 1995. In the UK, Àsìkò attended Brighton University graduating with a degree in Chemistry. His works are about “self-exploration and proliferate an internal conversation about culture, memory, and identity.”

Evans Mbugua is an up-and-coming artist-designer born in 1979, in Nairobi, Kenya. By 1999 he moved to France for his art studies. After graduating from Toulouse University, he attended the École Supérieure d’art des Pyrénées to study Graphic Design, graduating in 2005 having majored in Print Design. A self-confessed millennial, Mbugua’s bold use of colour and dot metaphors on his prints convey “a way of using art as a link to communicate and to unite people.” His prints overlap a narrative through the use of bright, energetic backgrounds and playful subjects. His focus on urban signs and pictograms transmits his quest to create a universal link through contemporary art.

The exhibition is open from 8th – 24th September 2016. 

Location: Gallery of African Art (GAFRA), 45 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4JL. More info on www.gafraart.com

Top featured image: Asiko, Allufa, Metallic Print, 2016 (L)
Top featured image: Asiko, ibi, Metallic Print, 2016 (R)