The first time I saw the work of Ayanfee, it was in print, and I wondered why I was yet to come across such an enigmatic art form, and so I sought to discover and understand what was the cause of my current marvel, was it particularly the arranged distortions? the scribbles? or the questions they beg their observe to ask? I was John Wick on a mission, ready to find out which curiosity killed my cat, and until I was satisfied, I would get no rest.
Over Instagram and emails we corresponded, there I met Ayanfee, but I also met Olarinde Olayemi Ayanfeoluwa, photographer as well as visual artist, and recent microbiology graduate from the University of Lagos. It is a dialogue I’m eager to share.
What draws you to art as a mode of expression?
Ayanfee: I love to scribble. I do not believe in “Jack of all trades, master of none” I feel it’s some sort of mentality that limits us to challenge ourselves to learn more, explore options, styles and own them. I am a fun lover, music lover, thinker, part-time dancer, fashion enthusiast, a sucker for the night-light and yeah I love traveling. I’ve found art as my most comfortable means of expression. I’ve found this pull/drag in art that I haven’t found in any other thing I ever tried. And the truth is I didn’t search, it just came to me. I see myself drawing or taking photographs each time I want to communicate with myself, you and my environment. I don’t exactly get the answers all the time, but it leads me somewhere close. I’ve been able to find myself through art and I feel there’s more to discover. I can’t wait
There are these arranged distortions and soothing gradients in your digital art, can you tell me about them and why you’ve made them a recurring theme?
Ayanfee: First off, the manipulations. I believe in the truth. And I started to scribble because at some point in my life I had to accept that I have flaws, people have flaws, we all are perfectly made but aren’t so perfect. And regardless of all of these things we still are beautiful, awesome. I’ve also seen that behind a smile there’s always a moment or feeling of hidden sadness, worries, evil thoughts, provocation, etc, I use this style to depict the Harmony in Disharmony. That side we usually do not get to see. The truth. And I’ve tried and I’m still trying to let these things show in all my work, including photography. Other distortions might be playful or with pun intended but definitely have questions attached to them cause they’re surreal, beyond realistic.
How did you learn your art form? Did you undergo any formal art education?
Ayanfee: No, I didn’t undergo any formal art education. I studied Microbiology in Unilag 2014-2018. I am a self-taught visual artist. I also didn’t learn to scribble, I just saw myself doing it. My first was at Artists Connect Edition 1, 2014 I think.
Can you tell me a bit about your method of scribbling artwork?
Ayanfee: There’s no method in doing jaga jaga lol. I use various mediums, pen, paint, ink, and a digital tab. I’m currently working on metal. I begin from a point, and just let my hands flow with it.
I’ve also noticed that parental advisory and restricted labels feature frequently is your work, what’s that about?
Ayanfee: I’m not too shy to say this, I believe we all go through some sort of phase sometimes and honestly, at that point in my life I was just going through a phase. More like I was making art for the gram. Yes, they were conceptual but there was no particular reason for putting those labels. It just fit in there. I later realized I was being shallow minded and stopped if you’ve observed.
What do you strive to portray in each art piece?
Ayanfee: The truth, about me, about whatever disturbs me [could be an event, societal issues, politics, music] Mostly twisted. But the truth.
What are your thoughts on the future of Nigerian art, especially considering the increased visibility of talented artists in recent times due to the internet and social media?
Ayanfee: I can only hope it gets better than this really. It’s not easy.
Who are your favorite artists and/or inspirations; local & international, dead or alive?
Ayanfee: Wangechi Mutu, Jean Michel Basquiat, Salvador Dali, Uche Uzorka, Sejiro Avoseh, Erick Centeno, Patrick Akpojotor, Lemi Ghariokwu, Pastonoiseau.
An enigma unraveled to a degree, time traveled through a painter’s melee. I stand at the finish line, firmly grasping the idea that art is all by design.
Follow her on Instagram @Ayanfee__