Being a self-taught artist, my approach is to experiment with human forms and investigate the psychology of being, by capturing the emotional state of my subject at a particular moment and by asking: ‘how do we feel a sense of belonging in an environment that constantly tells us we are not enough?’
I work with mixed media using charcoal, oil, acrylic, and fabric to create a dialogue of human anatomy. I particularly love rendering the flesh tones in charcoal while all other parts are covered with vibrant colours. Sometimes I infuse signs and symbols of the rich West African heritage into my work to further illustrate my rich ancestry as a Nigerian/Beninoise.
My figurative pieces focus more on the socio-cultural impact of the African youth as I find meaning in the mundane activities and exuberance scene in the neighbourhood.
I am also intrigued by the impact of colonialism on black culture and these are seen in the way I portray the figures in my painting which are characterized by poise, elegance, and iconic postures of the old masters’ paintings. I use my art as a form of activism to challenge the contemporary issues in the society.
Paul Ayihawu is a Nigerian artist born in 1995. He is a self-taught artist who uses oil, acrylic and charcoal as his medium of expression. He is inspired by the works of Kerry James Marshall, Kehinde Wiley, and Njideka Crossby in his pursuit of painting the culture of black people in a new light.
He uses his art to tell untold, unheard, and silent stories of Africans, with a focus on Nigeria. His work was selected for Joburg Fringe 2020 in South Africa, Ethan Cohen Gallery group exhibition 2020-2021 in London and exhibited in Lagos Fringe 2020 in Nigeria among others.