Artist Interview: Tope Ajayi

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Babatope Ajayi was born in Ibadan, Nigeria and currently resides there. ‘Tope Ajayi as he prefers to be called, is a multi-disciplinary artist with skills ranging from writing to drawing, photography, filming and much more. We interviewed ‘Tope to know more about the artist behind the art, his influences, art style and more.

When did you first become interested in art?
It was just one of those things that happened, not a story. I was always writing stories and imagining them play out in my head which my mother picked up on and fortunately ran into a friend, who nurtured my artistic talent. I ended up in an art school at the age of 13, although didn’t complete the journey. After that, I taught myself everything, from photography to drawing, filming and every other artistic medium I use to express myself.

Who were your biggest influences when you started out?
The people I had daily interactions with from my high school. Also artists like Nnana (Afro sculptor, Afro futurism & realism), Zuri (traditional art) etc.

Using three words describe the art you create?
Real, Universal and Futuristic.

What does your work aim to say?
I haven’t thought of it, but if any, it will be to recognize your place in the universe and connect to being black.

What is your creative process like?
I wake up to a new routine every day, but basically, I outline my goals for the week on a day-to-day basis with each day attributed to an art style and I work with a picture in mind.

What are the stories behind your work?
I am a fan of reality so my work is real and something everyone can relate to and see themselves in my pieces. They are also futuristic in that most cannot relate ‘yet’ but when the time comes, they will.
I do have a picture in mind when I start a pain ting but it can change because the process is spiritual and the work speaks to you- it is bigger than you.

Have you always operated in the same style/medium?
No, I started out writing then drawing, to photography and script writing.

How have you developed your career?
I’ve always known I’m multifaceted so I just worked on my talents. I was just going with the rave and I knew I couldn’t play out all my talents so I had to find something that could incorporate all my gifts an that’s where Filming came in.

What emotion do you intend on provoking from the viewer?
I would say vulnerability and self-reflection.

Do you use photo references or live models or strictly from your head?
A little bit of all three. I’m inspired by the process.

How do you title your pieces and how important are the titles to your pieces?
I’m actually bad at giving titles to my pieces but they always come out befitting of the art work. Although, I’m good at titling my movies.

How do you know when a painting is done?
For me, a large part of the process is spiritual so I just go with the vibe and where the vibes stops, that’s it.

How do you replenish your creativity?
Talks with my friends, thinking and strolls- I love the sunset, also, spending time with myself. I get inspired from posts, memes and silly, mundane things in general.

What is the favorite part of your work?
I’m going to repeat what a friend said to me once, “The process is the only reason the end is beautiful”. So, it’s the process for me.

Do you do custom paintings? And what’s the first thing you do when you take up a job?
Yes, I do. I ask questions upon questions so I can fully understand the client’s request and work accordingly.

What would you be caught doing when making art?
Working without clothes, eating junk food, dancing to loud music and goofing around.

How did Corona virus affect your art and business?
Omooo. It was a blessing for me, as an artist creating with limited resources, I was able to discover another side to my craft. Although, it prevented me from making money, I thought I’d be able to hold a tour in Africa and Nigeria for film.

Where have you exhibited?
I had my first exhibition this year “ElectHer”, it was a major exhibition and only ten artists were selected.

How do you set yourself apart from other artists within your space?
I’ve been set apart by what I’m doing.

Name three songs your artworks would dance to?
Come and Get Your Love by Redbone, Loved By You by Samm Henshaw and Loading by Badboy Timz and Olamide.

What’s next for you?
My Orisha series is being released in digital prints for sales. Also my birthday comes up in August and I’m celebrating with a virtual exhibition show, which will be my first solo exhibition show called ‘The Universe’

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