Artist places Black models in nature to create art to think to

An Island-based artist is hoping his new exhibit will prompt art lovers to look at life differently.

Niyi Adeogun’s latest exhibit features portraits of Black people mixed with nature scenes.

The artist, who moved to Prince Edward Island from Nigeria in 2016, said the pieces in his new exhibit show Black people in a scene where their value and beauty are centre stage.

“Black people specifically… it hasn’t been shown that there is value placed on them,” said Adeogun. 

“I tried to change that narrative … I tried to make that the centre of my creation so that I could express the value that I see and the value that God has in people.”

Niyi Adeogun stands beside one of his pieces on Bay Street in Toronto.
Niyi Adeogun stands beside one of his pieces on Bay Street in Toronto. (Submitted by Niyi Adeogun)

Adeogun said he started in graphic design in 2017 before transitioning into “more serious” art in 2019.

As he’s grown as an artist, so has his style, which incorporates a lot of nature imagery.

“I played a lot with flowers and birds,” said Adeogun. “I try to mix nature, try to mix objects that are naturally pleasant, visually pleasing to the eyes, and try to merge that with an image of a person.”

Mainstreet PEI5:31Niyi Adeogun

Niyi Adeogun is a visual artist on P-E-I who’s done a few shows on the Island to showcase his work, but now the whole country will get to see his talent as he was chosen to design one of Purolator’s limited-edition holiday boxes this year.

While this is Adeogun’s first exhibit of this year, he has done others in the past, and has also done murals in Toronto.

He said his style is heavily influenced by photo composition and symbolism.

“I try to create something that looks realistic, but also, you know, it’s still like out of this world,”

Faith and value

Adeogun said he has many inspirations for his work, but his Christian faith and the concept of value play an integral part.

“No matter what skin colour you are … it doesn’t matter how you look. What matters is on the inside,” said Adeogun. “So I try to use that idea to explain some form of value in my work.”

Adeogun said a common issue for him has been access to resources to create and exhibit his art.

He says while it has gotten better, and there are programs designed specifically for newcomers, he still has had to temper some of his artistic aspirations.

“Oftentimes I have to do like a watered-down version of what I wanted to do,” said Adeogun.

Adeogun’s latest exhibit will open Saturday at the Salvador Dali Café in Charlottetown and runs until April 21.

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For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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