Modé describes herself as a multidisciplinary artist. She studied Animation and worked at the Cartoon Arts Museum in San Francisco before returning to Nigeria. Inspired by creation, she believes people should connect more with art, forming relationships. This passion led to the creation of art on items that people carry everywhere like bags, phone covers, iPad and tablet skins. In this interview, she tells us more about her newly launched art space, Studio of Mode.

Is Modé coined from your name?

What’s your full name and what does it mean?
Modébolu. It means ‘I came to see a gift from God’. My dad wasn’t around when I was born. So, when he returned, he said “I came to see a gift from God.” He made it up.

When did you first discover your talent?
I don’t believe in talent. Art is something I just did as a child; I liked it and kept on doing it. I can’t
say I discovered art as it was part of me. The discovery part would be when people started talking about me; it was then I noticed I had something interesting and special. I was about 8 or 9 years old and used to write stories for people, as well as draw cartoons. I still keep some old sketches to remind me of where I started. I also watched a lot of cartoons as a child; I liked how they looked, so I drew the characters, though I later made mine.

Did you study art?
No, I studied animation.

But do you practice animation?
No, I don’t.

Are your prints handmade?
Yes, they are.

When did you decide to open this space?
I would say I only made the decision over a year ago, as it wasn’t a calculated one. Honestly, it wasn’t that I wanted to create this space; I just wanted a place to work and showcase my art. It then kind of evolved unexpectedly to this big thing. It’s been great though because now, I have a stronger vision of what I want to do.

Did you try to exhibit your work in any other gallery before you opened this space?
No, but it’s not because I didn’t want to. When I started, I focused on merchandising rather than
exhibiting in galleries.

How long does it take for you to create an artwork?
It’s difficult to say because it depends on what is being produced, as well as the materials used. I use various materials like watercolours, acrylics and pencils. It could take a few hours or even months. Generally, 3 to 6 hours but it’s not fixed.

How do you get your inspiration?
My motive is to make art a lifestyle. To create art, you have to think about things and reflect. Reflection makes you a well-developed and stronger person, intellectually. I want that to be inculcated by everyone.

Is it a personal thing for you or is it because you’re reflecting on societal challenges?
It’s anything. As long as you’re making a decision based on your reflection and not what the society tells you, then you are a stronger being.

Most artists use their works to try to correct wrongs in the society like corruption.
Yes, there can be all sorts of purposes but I don’t limit myself to a particular one. So, I can be talking about fashion one day and something more serious like politics the next. It just takes thinking to harness things.

What medium are you most comfortable with?
I use several media. Earlier, I used acrylics a lot. I’ve also worked a little in oils but now I use more of
watercolours. Hmm… I guess it’s graphite pencil, though I always like to try something new because I get bored easily. I guess I’ve been using a lot of watercolours recently because it’s faster to work with. I also got a lot of reception from my works in watercolour. It has a limitation as once you get started, you can’t undo a mistake; you just have to continue. I also do a lot of pencil work now. I may go back to using acrylics because they allow me to do larger works and are not so delicate when compared to watercolour. Watercolour is very sensitive to light. However, pencil is original to me because that was what I started with and the most forgiving.

What has been the reception for your gallery, especially with regards to the art community?
I’m not very sure. I’m not a part of the general art community yet because I’ve always been into the merchandise aspect, but I think I’ve had a good reception so far.

In an interview, you mentioned you like your art on phones and cases because you want people to have relationships with them and take them everywhere. However, some purists will consider that in merchandizing your art, it kind of dampens your creativity and makes it commercial. What are your thoughts on this?
My art comes first. They are two different schools of thought. One of my friends once told me about an artist who does big pieces and exhibits them once in two years. How does that affect the life of the common man? I’m not like that. My works aren’t exclusively for the intellectuals; they are for everyone and this will help the society at large. Meanwhile, every artist’s aim is valid. For me, I’m not trying to be exclusive. I think exclusivity is not very helpful. Most artists are like that. It’s like a musician saying he wants his music to be for a certain class of people because he wants it to be rare. I think art is for everybody, it shouldn’t be selective. I don’t do my pieces with commercial purposes, first on my mind. I concentrate on the art and then want people to understand it. Some people don’t understand but that’s fine. Others do and tell me they want to connect with it everyday because some works change the way people think. They may not be able to afford a N200,000 piece but buy a N5,000 or N8,000 piece they can have with them for a lifetime, just like a song that one loves. During my internship with Bruce Onobrakpeya, he used to say he would take his art and utilize it as much as he could. That is, he would make different patterns and make it as affordable as much as possible.

What year was your internship?
It was in 2013; I did it for 6 months.

Do you ever do large pieces?
I do mostly watercolours, which are limited to the paper you have.

But you also use acrylics and other materials?
Yes, but for now, I use watercolours more.

Do you find working with a small space, like a phone case, limiting?
No, I don’t paint on them. I paint on normal paper sheets, and then transfer it.

What do you do with the originals?
I sell them. I make limited copies like cases for people.

Is there any artist right now who you like very much?
Yes, there’s Karo Akpokiere in Nigeria.

Are you going to show him here?
Yes, I already did a piece in collaboration with him.

What’s next for you after this, are you planning to expand to other states?
We’ll see. I’m the kind of person that talks less and acts more.


Ladun Ogidan is the Deputy Editor of Omenka Africa’s first art, business and luxury- lifestyle magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication from Covenant University, Nigeria. Ogidan is also Operations Manager at the Omenka Gallery, and Chief Operating Officer at Revilo Company Limited, a leading art publishing company in Lagos. She has co-ordinated several exhibitions at home and abroad.

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