Painting and photography as media for expression to me are like the yin-yang effect. They are complimentary tools that help me communicate in totally different ways, to express myself fully. I usually paint these stylized, or pure abstract works. I draw relatively well, transcribing the reality of objects as they appear. I also paint well. But I let go of this ability when I paint. I would rather paint with feeling like an African. I want to interpret form for its importance to the overall message. I want to paint the nose for its functionality-because you use it to breathe, not just as a well-formed cone on a cylinder. In breathing, the nose rises and falls. I want to ‘think’ like it happens in real life, not just record physical appearances. I want to get at the substance of things-the meaning and use for the eyes. Usually, every part of the human body has a function. I would like to suggest that in my drawing. Realism doesn’t allow me to achieve that. Realism is more like a small scratch, like you have a cup and you scratch the cup. If one wants to drink water, one pours it inside the cup. I am working this way generally in my paintings. I accept though, that there is a place for realism even in painting-in recording history, social documentary etc. In my paintings generally, I am doing proverbs (poetry). In my photography, it is prose. I look at the scene before me and take the photograph. This is enough realism. Then I go away and fantasize. I tell stories that are sometimes hyperboles, deeper than surface meanings. So, through painting and photography, I achieve a balance in my work. I can’t just continue taking photographs and using them as references for paintings. I take a lot of photography portraits. This allows me the liberty, when I paint, to close my eyes to immediate appearances, to unveil emotions.
The photographs I take are social documents with a double meaning. It’s a retelling of a story, and also it is archival, storing up memories. It’s exciting for me to find ways of retelling the story (when I tear them up and use them as ‘colour’ in my paintings). Every time I have this opportunity to eat into a story, I enjoy the new interpretation that emerges. After amassing and printing so many photographs, it became necessary for me to find ways of recycling them, to find new use for them by giving them new life. I sometimes don’t give the printed photographs to the owner-maybe they don’t come back for it, or I don’t have the time to start looking for them to give the pictures, or I think the colour synchrony of the print does not match what I had in mind when I took the shot. The joy is not immediately commercial- to print and sell the picture. The joy is to take the photograph. The photographs started speaking back at me. I began to study them for their colour as a common element I could inculcate in my painting. I found that certain colours appear more often in my society. So I would cut up the pictures for the colours. This discovery affected my vision in photography. Colour gained importance for me while taking the shot. I looked for ways to highlight hitherto subdued colours, to create contrasts. I would emphasize certain colours by framing my shot. Sometimes I emphasize the colour in post-editing, since I usually shoot in RAW image format.
Every time I look at a scene, I think of squeezing out colour. This is particularly interesting in night photography when colours are not bleached by the sun. At this time, colours are most intense. These small bursts of colour contrast very well with the black of night.