One sunny Monday this past September, Yewande & I met via Zoom to talk
about her life as an emerging artist, painting as a Zen-like meditation
and why art can be the best of all remedies. If you’ve ever been
overwhelmed with emotions or felt a deeper connection for
a piece of art, then get to know Ms. Yewande Ambeke
with me- I promise it’ll be worth your time.
(Cover picture by Jimmy Hassel for The Hassel Studios)
My name is Yewande Ambeke. I’m based in Lagos, Nigeria and in 2016 I graduated from the University of Lagos with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, so I’m a pharmacist, I was trained to be a pharmacist. But some time in 2016, after pharmacy school, I suddenly had a lot of free time. I didn’t really know what to do, and so I decided to do some drawings, drawing just casually on the side, you know, just scribbling here and there when I was bored. Then, after a time, I realized: “Oh ok, what about if I take this seriously?” I didn’t plan to go into the business aspect of it at all, so really just from there, my art story unfolded.
I just continued drawing, and here we are: several exhibitions later and it’s going stronger than ever before so I guess you could call it an accidental discovery.
Realistic to swirls
It was during the lockdown of 2020 that I had a lot of free time, and I was bored and there was so much anxiety going on in my life at that time, because I wasn’t certain about my job, I wasn’t certain in terms of future outlooks. I was in a transition phase between being a pharmacist and being an artist, pharmacy not looking so good either and everything was just a mess. I remember coming across a figure sketching video of a ballerina, I think it was Kim Yuna. I watched her and the way she danced, the way she moved her body to the music, that became a sort of escape for me. So I imagined I was her, escaping from my reality and anxieties and from every doubt I had about the future. Ans so because of that, I started to draw ballerinas, I started with the legs because the legs of dancers basically reminded me of strength.
It looked like their legs had to carry all their weight and they had to have their muscle memory – so their legs became the persistence that I needed. That was when I was drawing realistic images of ballerina’s legs.
However, gradually, I started to feel the anxiety again, this time within my work, within my realistic work. It felt like I was trying to be perfect with it so there were times when I had to leave my palette and just move around in space, to somewhere else, and once I’d feel much better I’d go back to working on these realistic images. But then again, it was telling so much about me: I wanted the images to be perfect, I wanted the lines to be straight, yet at the same time I felt I didn’t want to bring that perfectionism into what I was thinking of doing full time in the future. I didn’t want to have that anxiety, I wanted to enjoy fully what I was and would be doing.
I had some low episodes last year in which I went through varying emotions. Some mornings were good and sound; I was energetic and bubbling but there would be some triggers and I’d just feel overwhelmed and really low. It felt like I was on a sea, being tossed high and low by the waves. So, I was going high, you know, and then suddenly, when everything was great, I’d be tossed under water again and everything would turn bleak and black, so I wondered: what is this? It was these waves of emotions that I felt in that period of time that started the swirls in my images. It was just an expression of how I was feeling, it was me, pouring all of it out and then gradually, I continued, and it sort of evolved. And then, the more I’d paint these swirls, the more I could articulate the process that I was feeling, it was easier for me to heal, to get through that phase.
So, now I’m stronger, I’m better, and I also had, you know, the affirmative words of friends and family and loved ones, which were able to pull me out. All these factors were what brought these swirls into reality. That’s just a quick summary of the past three years.