TSA: What makes your art unique and distinct?
Ayoola: I don’t know really because that is for the viewer. But I do agree that since my personality is fused into those works, that should inform some uniqueness.
TSA: You have a controversial reputation of using nude women forms in your works but you are also known as a big supporter of women’s course though you never fail to point out where you disagree, sometimes this becomes confusing. Can we know your stand on feminism, your disposition to women in general and the use of women forms in your art?
Ayoola: I don’t know what is controversial about the use of certain images to confer my message. Let’s start with the fact that I don’t understand what feminism’s end goal is or maybe I don’t think it is worthy. I see woman and man as the same with different capabilities and responsibilities whereby one can not exist without the other. They are made to compliment not to compete. The Blue Woman just wants the man to see her as first and most importantly a human with all human capabilities so as to appreciate her value. I don’t paint a woman because I see her as an object; I paint her because she wants me to.
TSA: What then is the story of the Blue Woman? How has she evolved from the original apparition that led to creating her?
Ayoola: First I did not create her. She revealed herself to me. She’s an idea that requires to be heard. Her story started as an apparition in my sleep and after several subconscious dialogue, I understood what the idea is about and that is, the idea that what a woman wants the most, is to be valued as a human being with all possible human capabilities as created. This means, if a human can do it, then I can do it just like you can do what’s possible for you ‘Mr Man’. God created humans to function in the roles or possibilities he has empowered them to. That’s it.
TSA: In a conversation at your studio, you mentioned the Blue Woman series will end when you have made 60 based on your vision. How many have you made so far and why are they not called Blue Women?
Ayoola: There’s nothing plural about her. She’s an idea. She’s to be found within bodies. I gave a set number because at some point I felt I don’t want to be a prisoner of her consciousness. The idea can be propagated through other mediums not just paintings. Maybe my writings, maybe a film or a documentary, perhaps a song.
TSA: Before that series started, you worked with traditional motifs to relate contemporary issues along with some tie to history, religion and traditions. Have you deviated from that completely?
Ayoola: I didn’t see them as traditional motifs. In fact they are symbols, they are pictographs. Images used to convey a message, it’s the same thing using an image of a blue female. It’s all symbolic, I have not deviated at all. I have simply asked the onlooker to open their eyes even more.
TSA: Going through history, the cock is a prominent symbol in art; can you explain this symbol in general usage and what it represents in your art?
Ayoola: Well I guess google will say a lot of general stuff about the cock such as pride, grace, confidence and so on. What it means in art is all a personal view of the artist. My cock, is sometimes a mirror of myself or someone who wants to be me, or what I should be. Maybe someone I admire.
TSA: What do you think of the media sensation “African art rising?” How would you compare this international claim with what is happening locally?
Ayoola: Africa is rising, and it’s not sensation because it’s always been on the rise. The only thing is, the west just always want to be the ones to declare a news to the world but we here know who we are and what we have going on. And since Nigeria is part of the continent, we are rising too. Everything about the land, its people, its resources and appreciation of its art.
TSA: As you already know, art is subjective in nature and I am sure you have received both positive and negative feedback in your career. Can you share some of these negative criticisms you’ve received and your reaction to them?
Ayoola: Well that’s human. I have been compared to some artists that I personally don’t agree with. I have been called someone’s protégé which I don’t understand how so. It’s been said that I don’t take my art seriously and that I party a lot than I work. Some even say art is just a cover up for something else that I do lol. Anyway, I guess all these put together makes me AYOOLA an artist and it’s a responsibility to me not a job. Its deeper than that. And I react to all this with a laugh publicly and in my privacy I make art and write notes.
TSA: As a collector of art, whose works do you have in your collection?
Ayoola: Duke Asidere , Ayoola, Wole Lagunju, Mark Rothko (print) , Moukasa, Muraina Oyelami and so on.
TSA: At different occasions either related to art or not, you have shown you are very fashionable especially with your stylish hats. Is that a signature style for Ayoola the artist?
Ayoola: I am a Prince and head coverings come within the territory. Plus its always good to make a statement with a symbol.
TSA: Can you describe a real-life situation that has inspired you and kept you going as an artist?
Ayoola: The Life of Mark Rothko, my mother’s story and the fact that fine art chose me I didn’t chose fine art.
TSA: Do you have an exhibition coming soon?
Ayoola: I have one showing now in Chelsea, London and another coming up in Lagos next year.
Artist’s Photo by Logor @Logorofafrica on Instagram.