Fashion comes first in Matthew Eguavoen’s stylish paintings
“Africa is a beautiful place and Africans are beautiful people”: the artist tells us how he uses bold garments to dispute misconceptions of Africa and its people.
- Olivia Hingley
- 27 April 2022
Colour coordinated power suits, tight-fitting turtlenecks and boldly patterned shirts – if there is one thing that stands out in Matthew Eguavoen’s paintings it’s his excellent depiction of statement fashion pieces. But, this focus on fashion isn’t merely a visual adornment to Matthew’s striking work, in fact, Matthew decisively uses fashion to defy negative connotations. “I represent Africa and Africans in a fashionable light”, the artist explains, “because we have been misinterpreted over the years when it comes to both our way of life and the kind of fabric we wear as clothes”.
Raised in Lagos, prior to his painting career, Matthew tells us that he had his dreams set on being a fashion designer. But, with his dad not being in support of this career choice and telling him he would have a better chance of getting a job with a degree in Civil Engineering, Matthew neglected his fashion ambitions. However, after making a lot of progress with graphite pencil and charcoal drawing in 2018, his final year of university, Matthew then tried his hand at painting and before long found himself completely hooked. So now, Matthew pays homage to his younger self by “infusing my fashion designer dreams in my work”.
When discussing the elements of the creative process that most inspire him, Matthew comes to the simple conclusion of “progress”. Having only started painting in 2018, Matthew’s work has come in leaps and bounds and his style is now as developed, distinct and unique as artists much more seasoned artists. And, alongside observing and reflecting on his trajectory so far, Matthew also sees the process of “talking about his works” and being able to share the “ideology” of his work as particularly invigorating. Interestingly however, Matthew adds that he has found that what he perceives as defining his work, or giving it meaning is around “80 per cent” of the time different from that of the viewer.
In 2021 Matthew began his Collector Series, fast becoming a collection of some of his favourite works to date. “It is a body of work that has to do with Africans gaining back their place in the world and quitting letting the colour of our skins limit how much we can achieve in the world individually and as a people.” Throughout each piece, Matthew shares that he has tried to add elements “with which Africans during slavery have been tormented,” such as boxing gloves and animals. In one of the pieces, a man stands firmly with his legs spread apart, dressed in a deep green suit, his eyes looking off into the distance, a German shepherd dog on a lead clutched in his grasp.
Having recently spent time in Paris for his solo show Egbé Okpá at Afikaris Gallery, Matthew explains that visiting its numerous museums and galleries has “broadened his scope”. And, he hopes to begin incorporating his experiences into some of his upcoming works when his busy schedule eventually allows for some extended time back in the studio.
Matthew Eguavoen: Are we doing this or not II (Copyright Matthew Eguavoen, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.