For Atanda Quadri Adebayo, painting is a journey of self-discovery and realization that allows him to. The artist was born in the ancient coastal city of Badagry, on the outskirts of Lagos (Nigeria), once an important geographical crossroads in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. As a son of these lands, the brutal colonial past is part of history, but he refuses to be solely defined by it - an aspect that shines through his paintings. The figures that populate his works represent unbroken men and women who burst with color and hope, despite the sufferance embedded in their life. Portrayed in elegant poses, the facial expressions embody an empowered vulnerability, or the result of finding bliss amidst the struggle. His first approach to art-making took place at an early age, when the mother used to bring home chunks of charcoal that she would sell in Lagos (Nigeria) to sustain the family. Atanda Quadri Adebayo gradually took an interest in them and started using them to draw. To this day, he uses charcoal to render the skin of his figures and as a symbol of Home and Origin which allows him elevate the work of art both his personal story and something as common, but as personally important, as a stick of charcoal.
However, the most powerful and personal symbol of resilience employed by Adebayo is the “artist soul” motif: the repetition of an abstract pattern created by blowing water color on the canvas using a straw. The simple act of painting using his breath becomes a powerful metaphor of life that allows him to infuse his art with parts of his soul. Reacting and reversing the utterance “I can’t breathe”, he artistically interprets the act of breathing as the ultimate symbol of both life and art.
" Ajo Eni III (The Journey of Self III)" 2021. Acrylic and Charcoal onCanvas. 72 x 60 in