By Prisca Sam-Duru
“Different Shades of Being”, is the title of an art exhibition by Elizabeth Chioma Ekpetorson which ended on Friday, June 25, 2021 at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos.
“Different Shades of Being”, Ekpetorson’s second solo exhibition which opened on Saturday, June 19, 2021, was organised by Affordable Art Online, promoters of the Ibadan Art Fair.
Featuring a total of twenty-one colourful pieces, the exhibition according to the Nigerian non-binary artist, was packaged as a diary of herself. “Instead of writing down my thoughts, I’m painting them”, she said.
In 2019 Ekpetorson had her first solo exhibition titled, “live and let live”, where she preached about acceptance. Her second solo outing only increased the volume of the first message with “Different Shades of Being”, now using herself.
“The choice of theme is, being non-binary, growing up in Nigeria, I was born biologically a female but have tendencies of male, but I’m neither of the two. Everyone expects that I act in a particular way since I was born as a woman. So, it laid a kind of burden and feelings of inadequacy on my part. “About three years ago, I decided to brace up and accept and love myself as I am- the way God created me. There’s a different aspect of humanity, so this, is like preaching to people not to judge others because of stereotypes”, she explained.
Ekpetorson who obtained her BA in Fine Art and Design from the University of Port Harcourt, River States, began working as a professional artist in October 2016. Ever since then, she has through her body of work, committed efforts towards preaching about self-acceptance, women, and other subject matters catalysed by swift response to creative impulses on human issues. “In telling my story, a large portion is dedicated to women, I paint for the shamed or silenced select of them, untangling their limitations and emboldening them via my art…”
‘Duality of Nature’ for instance, is a piece in consonance with the exhibition theme as well as the artist’s nature as non-binary. The work chronicles the period the artist battled depression as a result of a lot of things as she had both happy and sad moments which informed the twin forms.
Also, her nature as non-binary, is manifest in series such as ‘Two Seasons’, which is a piece showing human forms each backing the other; and ‘Self Assured’- presented as two nude female figures, representing where the artist accepts herself for who she is.
The twenty-one works on display were all produced this year except one which was produced in 2020. “Art is all I do and what I do isn’t an integral aspect, or a percentage, rather it is me in entirety. It is safe to say it does not start at one point to end at another, but present in all facets.
“So, I’m blessed with speed. Once I have a concept, I create. There are lots of things I’m currently thinking of exhibiting, each day gives me chance to execute the works easily because I already thought about them. I actually take out time to rest in between”.
As an artist of diverse expressions, with a penchant for nudes and portraits, Ekkpetorson noted that “the drive is to reveal authentic personalities underneath veils, also highlighting the importance of perceiving beyond physical attributes.”
Drawing inspiration from humans and their experiences, the artist said, “When I look at a person’s face for instance, I see a thousand emotions”. A constant feature in the works evident in rough strokes and cubes, portrays a fusion of cubism, expressionism and impressionism. “For me these days, I just create what’s in my heart; I do not want to box myself up, Just like my natural being as a human being and as an artist”.
Acrylic and charcoal are major mediums employed in almost all the works. That according to the artist, is most preferable because “it flows with my temperament, because I want to see the result and rectify anything that is not working according to plan”.
While some works are clear pointers to the theme, many others appear as abstract paintings. And, the whole idea she explained, “Is to allow observers freedom to interpret their own meanings. I like the feeling that viewers are able to peek into my emotions. You might be seeing an abstraction in a work where there’s none. I like that”.
For the talented artist, every art is unique to the artist. “An artist can’t really separate himself from his work. If for instance you are not happy with what’s happening in the society, it should reflect in your work. Art is like a voice and I’m glad it’s getting amplified”.