Victor Ekpuk: INTERwoven TEXTures 28 September – 21 November 2023 Efie Gallery Unit 2 Al Khayat Art Avenue 19th Street – Al Quoz 1 Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Efie Gallery, Dubai’s contemporary art gallery specialising in artists of African origin, presents a new body of work by Nigerian-American artistVictor Ekpuk which continues the artist’s exploration of Nsibidi, an ancient graphic communication system from south-eastern Nigeria. The exhibition of painting and sculpture, titled INTERwoven TEXTures, runs 28 September – 21 November 2023 and forms part of the inaugural Dubai Calligraphy Biennale, 1 – 31 October 2023, of which Efie Gallery is a partner.
Based in Washington D.C., Ekpuk is celebrated for his bold and expressive paintings, drawings and sculptures that offer sociopolitical commentary while encompassing themes such as cultural memory, humanity, spirituality and identity of the African diaspora. Marking Ekpuk’s first solo show in the Middle East, the exhibition explores the diverse cultural intersections across the region and displays works developed during the artist’s residency at New York University Abu Dhabi in September, hosted in collaboration with Efie Gallery.
A tribute to the power of dialogue and collective human experiences, Ekpuk’s new body of work sees the artist return to his use of wood, a medium that he employed regularly in the 1990s and 2000s while living in Lagos. The series of wood works sits alongside four new metal sculptures and two previously unseen works on canvas. The pieces are painted with Ekpuk’s own unique language of abstraction, made up of intricate scripture, symbols and mark-making inspired by the pictograms of Nsibidi, a secret system used by the mysterious Ekpe society and thought to date back as far as the 5th century.
Ekpuk’s contemporary reinterpretation of the Nsibidi script considers how forms and ideas can be reduced to abstract symbols, which carry meaning outside conventional Western systems of language, graphics and writing. His revisiting of this ancient form of abstraction confronts the heritage and history of the African diaspora as a means of considering its present and its future. It also provokes viewers to consider the wide-ranging nature of calligraphy, spiritual art and writings used within sacred spaces.
Of his work, Ekpuk says: “I want people to feel the works, instead of trying to read my marks literally. Whether I mine writing systems or just explore the juxtapositions between the old and the new, these are all excavations that serve my work, through which I am marrying classical African forms with the contemporary. Through this exchange of interwoven textures and cultural references, my artworks become a cultural narrative composed of visual symbols, histories and stories that transcend time and place. If I can, I want my works to be starting points for dialogue, new discoveries into the differences and commonalities among cultures.”
Coinciding with his exhibition at Efie Gallery, Ekpuk unveils a specially commissioned public installation in the Dubai Design District (d3) for the Dubai Calligraphy Biennale, becoming the first African artist to display a public sculpture in Dubai. Celebrating Arabic calligraphy and its global counterparts, the Biennale will showcase the works of over 200 local and international esteemed artists and calligraphers. Measuring 4m high and 6m wide, Ekpuk’s interactive aluminium installation is also covered in his Nsibidi-inspired symbolic script, inviting viewers to engage with its concave shape and walk through its human-shaped doorway.
In October, Ekpuk will also participate in a panel discussion about calligraphy across different cultures globally at Museum of the Future in Dubai.
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