Palace Engagement | Victor Ehikhamenor
Perforation on Handmade Paper
Size: 40” X 27.5”
History, events, and humans often put strands of narratives before us, calling us to retell stories in curious ways. We react with caution but oftentimes exaggerate our claims to the past, delving into the reconstruction of memories documented mentally, some vivid and many flimsy. As these narratives are espoused by one storyteller and then another, from one generation to the other, they become elastic and magical, sometimes contentiously constructed. Elasticity guarantees that an experience can be at once phantasmal as it is of a present moment, as well as a form that is shapely in its shapelessness.
In a once vibrant village filled with artsy shrines and altars of worship, a mother and many grandmothers tell tales and construct folktales that seesaw between the living and the dead, the spirit world and the metaphysical realm. The characters in these folktales were elaborate, imaginations were stretched as far as the mind can accommodate, sometimes frighteningly so. As one grows older and dissect these old tales, the reality of things kicks in, the characters and events heard of as a child are not as far away anymore. Those early distant characters become “us”, we the living. The art of chronicling the enchanted world is a way for the storyteller to drag the past to come to witness the present and shape the future for those interested.
Supposing, then, we are presented with art and letters that begin with this premise, pointing to alternative narratives? To fuse and interfuse stories with the written word, heard and imagined, draw/paint belligerent and benevolent art seen and dreamt of every day? One has no choice but to obey and that obedience to tell it all is what informs the basis of my various art forms over the years. And here is where my art meet history, memory and contrived politics of today’s world.
My art process is a telling of an accumulated constructed, other-worldliness pictorial stories of many veracities. These works in their different shapes and styles approach the use of traditional material from the atypical corner of a storyteller. The paintings and sculptures propose that the artist’s canvass can stretch his/her narratives farther than the restraining corners of stretcher bars. What would a painting on a sculpturally constricted canvass look like? What ancient tales would a hand- made paper perforated with nails tell? Will a free-flowing extra-large canvas, filled with borrowed signs and symbols from the walls of village shrines and sacred altars, tell the story of a cherished yet divided childhood? Encountering the works will answer some of these questions but it will also send viewers into a further phantasmic journey filled with their own interrogations.
Victor Ehikhamenor is a Nigerian artist, photographer and writer. Ehikhamenor has been prolific in producing abstract, symbolic and politically motivated works.
A 2016 Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellow, Ehikhamenor has held several solo exhibitions and his work has been included in numerous group exhibitions and biennales, including the 57th Venice Biennale as part of the Nigerian Pavilion (2017), 5th Mediations Biennale in Poznan, Poland (2016), the 12th Dak’art Biennale in Dakar, Senegal (2016), Biennale Jogja XIII, Indonesia (2015), and the 56th Venice Biennale as part of the German Pavilion (2015).
Ehikhamenor has had numerous exhibitions with a strong following in Nigeria, the United States, Asia, the UK and other parts of Europe. His fictional work “Madam” and drawings “Postcards from Italy” were part of the German pavilion in the 56th Venice Biennale, “All the World’s Future”, curated by Okwui Enwezor in 2015.
He was also one of the eleven Nigerian artists at the 2015 Jogja Biennale in Indonesia where he
presented his monumental installation, “The Wealth of Nations”. One of the three artists at the first Nigerian Pavilion in the Venice Biennale, “A Biography of the Forgotten” was the work showcased at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017). As a writer, he has published numerous fiction and critical essays with academic journals, mainstream magazines, and newspapers around the world including New York Times, BBC, CNN Online, Washington Post, Farafina, AGNI magazine, Wasafiri Magazine, and others.
Ehikhamenor received his MFA in the University of Maryland, College Park. He maintains a studio in Lagos, Nigeria, and Maryland, U.S.A.