Family Ties is Ekene Stanley Emecheta’s first solo exhibition in London. The exhibition at Daniel Benjamin Gallery revolves around portraits of a fictional family imagined by the self-taught artist, with subjects that promise to will reoccur in Emecheta’s future works as he continues to develop this narrative.
In Family Ties we are introduced to Deen, Jeen, little Andy and their dog for the first time.
In each painting, the absence of a distinctive background focuses the viewer’s attention on the soul of the subject. Through his paintings, the Emecheta aims to slowly reveal the aura of the individuals he represents with the black skins overpainted in iridescent shades of white. Emecheta explains, “there are no two people with the same aura and thus with the same colours”. Each subject is further strongly characterized by their own personality and highlighted facial expressions. The subjects are completely bare to the observer, so much so that even the door in Come on In allows the viewer to see right through. Nothing can be hidden anymore.
This family was born from a combination of Emecheta’s imagination, personal experiences, photographs and found images. They are people who do not exist but who could exist. The observer is left to imagine each person’s story through the few details available: a colourful sweater, a straw hat, a wheat field, a pink shirt.
More explicit in its storytelling, Memories of You goes harks back to the artist’s recent trip to Greece and portrays a glimpse of the island of Hydra as the backdrop for a moment of romantic reminiscence. Possibly inspired by Greek marbles, this new series of paintings gives the subjects a sculptural appearance; their stillness and intricate facial expressions create a direct dialogue, inviting the viewer to become physically and emotionally invested in their life.
Far from hiding Blackness, Emecheta reveals even more of it, unveiling the aura behind the skin, at times leaving part of the original face visible, as in Deen’s Eyes, Truly Jeen and Pure Joy (In Andy’s Smile).
Looking at Emecheta’s paintings, we are faced with sonder, the sudden realization that each random passerby and person we see is living a life as vivid and complex as our own.
Ekene Stanley Emecheta at Daniel Benjamin Gallery, through to – 14th Nov db-gallery.com/
About the Artist
Born in 1994, Ekene Stanley Emecheta is a self-taught artist, living and working in between Lagos and Abuja. His artworks were recently featured in the acclaimed exhibition Black Voices: Friend of my Mind at Ross-Sutton gallery, New York, Truthful Waters at The Breeder Gallery (with a positive review by Frieze Magazine amongst others), Athens and in art fairs such as FIAC, Frieze NY and LA, Armory and Liste.