“I create my sculptures by starting with the eyes, without drawing”.
Steve Ekpenisi was born in Abavo, Ika in Delta State. Currently, he lives in Lagos, Nigeria where he creates beautiful, thought-provoking pieces. Steve has been an artist from an early age stating “I discovered from my childhood I was an artist, I was born an artist”. He started creating sketches at the age of four before he pursued sculpting, “Anything I could see I would draw until I completed secondary school”. Although Steve is known for his sculptures his sketches and paintings are something to behold. The detail and deep emotion that is present in his work will cause you to pause and wonder at what is occupying the thoughts and lives of his subjects.
He was encouraged by his older brother to study art and pursue higher education. While completing his studies as an artist Steve focused on sculpting which established the artist he is today. He describes his allure to sculpting stating “Sculpture, metal sculpture precisely is what I really connect with. I love forms, I love seeing the form, I love feeling it. You can create forms and contours in your drawings and in your paintings but I love forms physically. That’s why I focus on metal sculptures”.
Steve has the ability to create movement in his work. Although his medium of choice is inanimate and unyielding, his ability to produce a dynamic image is commendable. “One thing that is constant in my sculptures is that I try to make it motional, even though it’s static. It is not a kinetic sculpture. Its something I plan before I start”.
Showcasing his art in Nigeria has presented challenges for Steve. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 his solo exhibition was suspended earlier than scheduled. His most recent exhibition, Diary of the Iron Bender, his first solo exhibition, is a peek into his life as an artist. We asked him why he chose this name for his exhibit and the response is “I have consistently been working on this as a vision which is almost like a daily routine for me. Every day I record progress and because the progress is recorded every day, I see how it transforms from one sculptor to another”. His vision was inspired by what he goes through in his daily life.
Nigerian culture has an impact on Steves’s sculptures. “I have a very rich cultural heritage that is gradually fading away because of western civilization. Over here, a lot of people say that my sculptures are barbaric, against religion or Christianity. But I know that what I am projecting is not in any way barbaric. It is a way of life of a people who are actually being forgotten. So I’m trying to use my sculptures to sensitize people that these things actually existed and promoted peace, unity, and oneness”.
His piece named Otu Ugo is named after a cultural dance leader. “Otu Ugo is an elite dancer that is always dancing in front of people. Whatever the next step is, he or she has to be the one to introduce it where others follow. This transcends beyond dancing and music. In every organization, there is supposed to be someone who is leading and the others should follow. These days, people don’t like to be lead, everyone wants to be the captain”. His goal behind this piece is to inspire others in their daily life.
We asked about Steve’s sculpture titled Against All Odds. We wanted to know the narrative behind this unique sculpture and he explains “I live in a very different community when I say community I mean Nigeria, where almost anything is possible. What I mean is that individuals are not doing what they out to have done, the government is not doing what they are supposed to do, to make this a better place for each and every one of us”. He elaborates further stating “Nigerians are people who provide everything for themselves. You make money and provide security and healthcare for yourself, you provide water and electricity for yourself. Basic amenities you provide for yourself. So all of these things, Nigerians are surviving against. That’s what this piece is all about”.
We asked Steve what challenges he may encounter when creating a sculpture and he states “Power. Electricity. We don’t have a constant power supply”. Steve prefers to use stainless steel and copper in his art but also uses items that are currently available to him such as metal sheeting, discarded automobile parts, and recycled metals. He masterfully forms them into pieces of beauty which reflects his passion as an artist. Each piece represents an aspect of Steve and his life making his art very personal with a deep and meaningful directive.
Steve creates his sculptures organically. He does not sketch his sculptures prior to their creation and he does not use a clay model. He begins a project with the eyes of his subject. “I create my sculptures by starting with the eyes, without drawing”. This contributes to the uniqueness of his work and shows that Steve is a true artist with an innate drive to create. You can purchase pieces from Steve’s solo exhibition through the Signature Beyond Gallery or contact him directly through Instagram. We thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Steve about his art and the deep meaning behind each piece. Be sure to find him on social media for more of his amazing work.