Henry Drewall, the philosopher of sensiotics, wrote a couple of days ago that, “Moyo mi owon — you have turned pain into paint…for us to see and feel….”
He should know. Sensiotics is the archeology of feelings within the human sensibility.
This painting shared here is about the pain and joy of departures and arrivals, as one of my Transatlantic Series: in 1992, I started it in Nigeria just as I was relocating to the to the United States, where I completed it.
I loved it so much that I did two versions of it. The most important reason for doing a second version of it was that I was using it as a palette, like a musician tunes a guitar or a piano in preparation for a concert. I wanted to tune my color and pattern palette after I arrived the US, and it was the painting I used for that purpose.
The Chazen Museum of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, purchased the second version of it in 2008. This is the first version, the one that I began in Nigeria and completed in the US.
The most important distinction is that I painted the Chazen Museum work with a palette knife, while I did this one with a brush.
But they look exactly alike. I also have about twenty shots of the creative process of the Chazen Museum work, but have no record of painting this first one.
The subject of the composition
is actually myself.
I began the work by lying down
and projecting the light
against my body,
casting the silhouette
on the blank canvas.
I traced out the silhouette
on the plane of the canvas.
On top of my body image
I began a rhythmic
arrangement of shapes and colors
to paint a musical palimpsest
of pain and pigments