Wahab Saheed: Night After Valentine’s Day

Wahab Saheed

Artwork’s Title: Night After Valentine’s Day

Materials: Acrylics, Charcoal, Chalk And Oil Pastel On Canvas

Studio: Lagos, Nigeria

Wahab Saheed, Night After Valentine’s Day, Charcoal, acrylics, chalk and oil pastel on canvas, 4ft x 3ft, 122cm x 92cm, 2021

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

The process usually starts from abstraction, most of my works have always started from a rough idea that comes from a quiet observation, sometimes I make preparatory sketches and have myself model for the kind of concept I have in mind, also have a collection of photos that quite resonates with the inspiration, after I have all these sorted I stare at the blank canvas for a huge amount of time, thinking of the different possibilities and direction it may take, that is when I make the first mark on the canvas preferably with charcoal powder and a piece of foam covering the whole surface, the I continue to add and subtract forms almost like sculpting in the two dimension keeping the movement fast.

I fix the charcoal drawing with a fixative in order to avoid it smearing and also using water in addition to give a certain fluidity most of my work carry, allowing chance to play a part in giving more accent to the expression each work captures, from there on the painting develops.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Identity, Fragile, Expression.

Could you share with us some insights on your ‘NIGHT AFTER VALENTINES DAY’, (2021)? Is there any particular story behind this new painting?

I made the work after several rejections in my life, not from the love perspective in particular as it depicts but from different art opportunities, the work served as a tool for healing for me despite having so many “better luck next time”. The night after valentines gave me the encouragement that I needed, I tried to establish the fact that rejection is normal in life, it shows a lover that has stayed up all night which the lowly lit lantern made us know and a flower in hand with handpicked rose petals on the table which symbolizes moment of contemplation and self-doubt, so I decided to use a scenario most people would relate with which is the concept of a repudiated lover.

It looks evident that you are very keen on portraiture? Is it like a current painting series that you try to concentrate on this period or different kind of styles and motifs interest you as well?

Well I have always been drawn to portraiture since my early days in art school, I made a lot of commission from painting and drawing portraits, so that had a lot of influence in my current body of works, now looking at them from an angle of more expressive depictions. I try to be flexible as possible and still communicate same idea through my works.

Looking at your paintings, ordinary black men and women dominate your imagery in which they tend to have quite bleak and strict expressions. Why do you choose this kind of depiction?

I am drawn to the psychological human conditions and behaviour, the fragility of our existence has championed my search into creating works with strong emotional resonance and still maintaining a certain kind of calmness, also what I do with my work is to reveal a certain depth to the inner emotional reality of my subjects, when you take a look at where I am from, nobody is really happy, always a breaking news from insecurity, government incompetence etc. all of these contributes to the expression my work carries.

Where do you draw inspiration in order to build up your distinctive portraiture on canvas?  Are they related to personal memories or are they closer to your imagination as an artist?

The inspiration is always around the corner, from close friends, family and even people I share same territorial space with, my imagination also contributes to the outcome of a work giving the subjects a transformative quality while still maintaining something realistic at the same time.

Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?

Yes there have been some works I have created from experiments planned and unplanned, some concepts are researched from the beginning to the final stage

Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?

I am drawn to the quite melancholic human behaviour through love, exaltation of black figures using personal stories and even collective ones to engage my art with.

What would be the best way to exhibit your work?

In a room that is spacious and also to keep the lighting in a very low and soft ambience, I do not want odd glare over the paintings which is not quite interesting for my type of work

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

I have an endless list of artist who have inspired my practice over the years, like Kathe Kollwitz the German expressionist who was an eloquent advocate for victims of social injustice and inhumanity which I sense a connection with her works, Lucian Freud for his bold and unapologetic figures and also my colleagues who are doing great stuffs at the moment; Julius Agbaje, Iyunola Sanyaolu, Wande Oseni, Olatoye David, Chidinma Nnoli, Adebayo Atanda, Taiwo Adebayo, Bakare Samson, Barry Yusufu, Ikeorah Chisom and many others I can’t remember.

Do you wonder if additional work was needed, when an artwork’s making process is finished?

Leonardo da vinci once said “Art is never finished only abandoned”, the more you look the more you want to keep working on it, I just have to make the whole picture work and then there is a feeling of fulfilment, I do not need to overwork the painting after having that feeling.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

My studio is located in Lagos, Nigeria, it is a small space which I moved into at the beginning of the year, before then I have been painting in my room and sometimes my compound. This new space has lots of ventilation which is something I really look out for in a working space, it has two rooms which I use one for painting and the other one for storage

Which are your plans for the near future?

I am having a group show in May at Carl Kostyal, Stockholm and hopefully more shows and to keep on practicing and remaining relevant to the contemporary art scene.

Additional Paintings

Daytime Blues, Charcoal, Acrylic, Chalk and Oil Pastel on Canvas, 122cm x 92cm, 2021
Wahab Saheed, Ella’s Red Bag, Acrylics, charcoal and oil pastel on canvas, 122 cm X 92 cm, 2021
Wahab Saheed, Damsel in distress, Acrylics, charcoal, chalk and oil pastel on canvas, 122 x 92 cm, 2021


All images are courtesy of the artist

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