Buki M. Animashaun on Becoming Mariam
Fast-rising contemporary Nigerian artist Buki M. Animashaun’s abstract pieces seek to maximize communication, inspired by social, economic and political cultures, through time and evolution. She also examines symbolism and expressions that form principles of community as the world becomes more digital. In this interview with Omenka, she talks about her forthcoming exhibition Becoming Miriam and the inspiration behind her work.
When did you first decide to become an artist?
To say that I made a decision to become an artist would diminish the serendipity surrounding the way art found me. In 2014, after years in commercial media without finding a fulfilling medium of expression, I made the decision to find value in work I could do with my hands. I wanted to take up woodwork but couldn’t find a teacher so I took up sewing which transitioned into sewing on canvas and then into painting on canvas, the medium I’m currently exploring.
Your background is in political science, African studies and French. You also studied law and have been influenced by Anglo-Arabian culture. How exactly have you incorporated these influences in your work?
Subject matter is the most integral part of my work. I connect with the importance of culture and search for subject matter around the ways we exist in context of each other. My visual language suits my ‘findings’ to familiar sensibilities of bright colours and patterns, simple shapes, lines and multi-dimensional references. These references are interpreted through a lens that was shaped by a Muslim father and Catholic mother, as well as an interest in the cultural currency of socio-political interactions evidenced to me when I studied French language and culture.
You recently said “Though I am quite committed to a phase primarily expressed through acrylic paints on canvas, generally, mixed media is exciting because there are no rules to it.” Please describe your working methods and underlying philosophy?
Typically, I get inspired by subject matter relating to culture and individual and collective responses to it and then lose myself to the painting. In this moment, my creative philosophy is to express with no boundaries to my medium or to my mind. That said, I begin with large swatches of colour and develop the colour palettes to communicate the emotions that come to me. I then use symbols and shapes that contrast or complement the message and develop the colour palette and theme.
Your pieces constantly explore the symbolism and expression that embodies the principle of community, what it means to take care of each other in our digital world. Can you elaborate on the elements that have influenced your work and why?
Many African communities are still largely homogenous bodies of similar ethnic and regional influences. Our strong cultural influences systematically guide how we interact and connect with one another; connections that still have significant room for growth in authenticity and accommodation. The advent of digital communication and media tools facilitate our ability to connect more truthfully.
Please tell us the underlying philosophy behind the series ‘Success Metrics’ and ‘Space Between Us’ and how they both relate and complement each other?
‘Success Metrics’ is a series that uses statistical data tools as visual representations for how to measure successes. To serve as illustration, the piece Timeplot visually encourages the viewer to consider what it means to be bold and the inevitable reward of growth over time. The piece has bright colours and mixed media with my signature of bold lines. ‘Space Between Us’ is an exploration into what separates us and the process of connecting. Using the theme of an outer space nebula, from first contact, this series is a visual representation of how authentic connections can change our experiences. Both these series are connected by themes of authenticity, uniqueness and self-motivation; tenets of my art and my life.
Kindly describe the works that best exemplifies each series and why?
From the series ‘Space Between Us’, Abundance is the culmination of the process of evolution; the aspiration of existence as we have come to understand it.
Princess Warrior from the ‘Superheroes’ exemplifies the series because it is a juxtaposition of traditionally masculine visual attributes over traditionally feminine expressions of colour.
Timeplot of the Success Metrics series is about gaining boldness over time as a rewarding experience.
What is your thinking behind the work Hey Daddy, in which the symbol for the naira, the Nigerian currency, appears repeatedly in rows and columns?
As one of the most accessible symbols of our effort to build an ethnic collective/country. The naira symbol represents the struggle for empowerment in economic systems that mostly cater to the most narcissistic natures of our culture. Hey Daddy uses bright metallic colours and strong segmentation to make a contemporary statement that posits an economy that builds sectors and opportunities that optimise and glamourise our collective identity.
Your upcoming exhibition Becoming Mariam will hold from December 9 to 23 at the Omenka Gallery, Lagos. What do you hope to achieve and what are your expectations regarding the reception of your work?
This exhibition is exciting because it is my first solo, and it is in my home city. I’m looking forward to the feedback from new audiences and engagement with seasoned art lovers and neophytes alike.
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