Joyce Bryant – L.O.V

Emmanuel Unaji

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“Created during my 8 month Residency at The Hari Hotel, this canvas work explores the spectrum of visibility and luxury, centring Joyce Bryant, a popular 1950s African American singer and actress with nicknames including The Bronze Blond Bombshell and the black Marilyn Monroe. Known for her powerful voice, in later years she trained Jennifer Holliday, Phyllis Hyman, and Raquel Welch.

In the 21st century, pop culture can at times foster celebrity worship through images and iconography, however there is a contradictory essence to the images we see. We observe photos yet don’t always have a complete understanding of a subject’s life experience and the socio-historical context in which they exist. The piece focuses on the polarising space between perception and reality, and how opinions are based on fragments of information.

I want my art to simultaneously entice and interrogate the angle of the viewer to reveal the cultural significance of the subject.”

DIMENSIONS | 100 x 150 cm
MEDIUM | Acrylic, Watercolour, Oil Stick & Collage on Paper
AUTHENTICITY | Signed certificate of authenticity

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Emmanuel Unaji a British-born Nigerian multidisciplinary artist whose unique portraits combining collage, drawing and painting has gained widespread recognition in the creative industries and been featured in household institutions including Tate Britain, London Fashion Week and Frieze Art Fair. Coined as ‘new talent to watch’ by several publications and brands such as Forbes, British GQ and Adidas, Emmanuel explores the socioeconomic landscape of the creative sector, carving out his own space, at the intersection of fashion, luxury, street and fine art.

Bold and unconventional, Emmanuel’s signature style is to mechanically deconstruct his portraits to reverse engineer the unconscious bias applied to portraiture. Influenced by popular culture and masters such as Andy Warhol and Virgil Abloh, Emmanuel contemplates the Western canon and questions his place within it.

“Subconsciously, I am always deconstructing images to find dual narratives in them, trying to find people in them that I can relate to. When I observe art, I look for identifiable elements. I wonder, where is my heritage in that constellation?”

Taking as his subjects fashion models, cultural or political icons, Emmanuel’s practice is an exploration of the concept of individuality and how we define ourselves in a world obsessed with ownership, social media, beauty and where upholding public personas has become the norm. By stripping back his work layer by layer, Emmanuel fearlessly explores the distance between perception and reality and provokes a reflection in the viewer on our own gaze and what lies beneath the images that we consume.

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Education | BA Fashion Design, Ravensbourne University; BA Fine Art, Kingston University

Awards | Royal Greenwich Business Awards - Young Entrepreneur Winner, 2021; Peabody Thamesmead Open, International Art Competition, Runner Up, 2020; Fida Fashion Illustrations Drawing Awards Finalist, 2020; Ravensbourne Incubation Lite Award, 2019; MTV Breaks Artist, 2017

Featured | Forbes, Frieze Week London and Beyond - 5 Essential Exhibitions To See, 2021; SOCIÉTÉ Magazine, 2021; France 3 | Télévision, 2021; Chromatica Magazine, 2020; Sustainable Fashion Brands, 2019;
‘Perception vs Reality’ Omenka Online, 2019

Solo Exhibitions | Acid Gallery x Maisons de Mode (Roubaix, France), 2021; Acid Gallery x Serié Noire (Lille, France), 2021; ‘Unaji: Immersive Art Experience’, Freemasons Hall (London), 2019; ‘Nostalgia’, Tate Britain, (London), 2019

Group Exhibitions | ‘On Experience and Perception’, ArtiQ x Mayer Brown (London), 2021; The Hari Hotel x ArtUltra Residency, (London), 2021; ‘100 Years of Justice Magistrate Association’, D Contemporary Gallery (London), 2021; Fashion Illustration, Acid Gallery (Lille, France), 2020; ‘Superstar Showcase’, Adidas Originals x Creative Debuts (London), 2020; Welcome to LDN, Adidas Originals x Creative Debuts (London), 2019; ‘Built from Past at Present’, Custard Factory (Birmingham), 2019; ‘Self Validation & Authenticity’, Horton Arches (London), 2019; Arts Alive Gallery (London), 2018; ‘House Of MTV’ (London), 2017; ‘Savage’, Circle 1 Gallery (Berlin), 2017; ‘Time Flies’, Musée Noir (London), 2017; Frieze Art Fair (London), 2016; Gallery On The Corner (London), 2016

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