The main subject in Adeife Adeniran’s paintings is “Box Head”, a character he created to embody loneliness. According to the Lagos-based painter, the world holds a large population of people
who are lonelier than ever before (partly due to Social Media and networking), “boxing”
their emotions within and putting on a façade of numbness. In our interview with Adeife,
he told us more about “Box Head”, the feeling of loneliness & how art can be a
tool to deal with it, and the art scene in Nigeria. Enjoy!
For those who don’t know you: who are you and how did you get into art, especially into painting?
I am Adeife Adeniran, a visual artist living in Lagos where I was born in 1999. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Arts from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. I can boldly state that I was born with a creative mind, art has always been a part of my being. I remember drawing cartoon characters as a kid and creating house models with cartons. So, it made sense to my parents that I took art classes in secondary school and went further to obtain a university degree in visual arts.
However, I never thought of being a painter. I was so fascinated with photography and wanted to be a photographer while I was enrolling at the university. Photography wasn’t a major so I opted for painting instead, but I had a digital camera and practised photography. Fast forward to four years, I got out of school just before the pandemic and was stuck at home like everyone else. That was when loneliness set in and I felt the need to translate my emotions into art. I picked up my leftover art materials from school and started experimenting. I felt some sort of comfort from painting that I never had in school, and I just continued to paint since then.
Please tell us a bit more about your work.
I create works primarily in painting and experiment with other media such as digital collages and illustrations. My work incorporates the repeated use of a fictional character I created called Box Head, to explore the themes of loneliness and solitude, which I consider social epidemics. With Box Head, I paint and illustrate melancholic atmospheres and tell stories of lonely moments most humans must have experienced.
In your artist statement, you write that “Box Head” is also a representation of yourself and that you have felt lonely yourself in your life. Has creating “Box Head” and painting, in general, helped you to deal with loneliness and other difficult emotions in your life?
Yes, I consider Box Head an alter ego and I often depict my own experience of loneliness in my work. I consider the process of creating a Box Head piece, self-therapy. Halfway through some paintings, I just sit and re-evaluate my experience of loneliness. And the whole process helps me understand myself and my emotions better.
More generally speaking, do you think that being creative, especially in the visual arts, can help people to overcome difficulties in their lives?
I believe creativity is very important in enabling humans to understand themselves and overcome difficulties. When we experience a work of art (either made by us or someone else) that talks about a problem we face, we are figuratively staring at a mirror. By doing so, we see our problems clearly and that way we understand them better and then know how to overcome them.
Please share some of your creative processes with us, from an idea to a finished piece.
My ideas come abruptly after consuming various media for a significant amount of time. For instance, I could be listening to a song and a particular line in the lyrics would strike me that I’ll consciously develop a visual translation of it in my mind and include Box Head in the scene. This is then transferred onto paper as a sketch and further onto a canvas. I apply my colours flat, then with a special technique, I apply outlines, giving it an illustrated look. I now consider myself an illustrator who happens to paint.
I saw one of your works that is a (polaroid) picture of “Box Head” at a Party- how did that idea come about?
The idea is from a meme of a guy holding a balloon next to two lovers kissing. The meme reminded me of the last large parties I attended in school (before the pandemic) where I felt I was alone and in the wrong place while watching everyone have “fun”. The date of the party is what is written on the polaroid.
How is life as an emerging artist for you where you live? (e.g.: Are there opportunities, spaces to work, fellow artists, galleries, etc.?)
In all honesty, being an emerging artist in Lagos and Africa at large is frustrating. There are few to no opportunities for emerging artists, particularly the ones creating outside the norm for African art. No grants, no residencies, nothing, for emerging artists, maybe just a few open calls. The opportunities here are instead given to fairly established artists who already have a platform. Moreover, there are no facilities for experimentation, like screen printing studios, film development studios etc. There are lots of artists like myself who want to create more than just paintings but have no facility nor funding to do so.
Would you like to share what you’re currently working on if anything? / Where is “Box Head” heading next?
Well, I’ve spent most of 2022 leaning towards my illustration skill. I’ve been working on digital illustrations and collages – still Box Head related. I’m working toward implementing this in my physical works, exploring new mediums and techniques that’ll further make my works illustrative.
Any advice that was given to you during your journey as an artist that has helped you and that you’d like to share with fellow emerging artists?
Create an identity, something that makes your art stick out from the rest and stick to it. Don’t compromise for opportunities.
What are your hopes for the future?
I am exploring the idea of commercialising my art; making my art accessible not just for the elite but for the public. I look to convey Box Head into different medium that’ll will be available to everyone regardless of your financial status. From paintings to toy figures, prints, public art and many more.
Get in touch
Adeife on Linktr.ee
All Photographs courtesy of
Written by Adeife Adeniran & Nina Seidel
Edited by Nina Seidel
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