A non-binary artist, Eleez born Elizabeth Chioma Ekpetorson stood before the cameras set by the television crew and photographers. It was hard to place her gender from her looks. June 19 was her opening show for the second solo exhibition at the National Museum, Onikan which is titled, “Different Shades of Being.”
Ekpetorson who obtained her BA in Fine Art and Design from the University of Port Harcourt, River States, began working as a full time studio artist in October 2016. Since then, she has explored themes around self-acceptance, women, and other subject in her works.
“I chose that title because as a non-binary artist, living in Nigeria, I had to accept my difference and embrace it especially in a country where you are expected to look a particular way or dress in a particular way,” she began.
“I had to do this show to prove to others that you should also accept yourself. The different shades of being highlights the differences in nature, you and I. We are different from each other and that difference should not lead to animosity. There is a popular saying that variety is the spice of life. That’s why I chose the title, “Different shades of being.”
Non-binary is considered as an umbrella word for gender identities that are neither male nor female outside the gender binary. That gender fluidity mirrors her diverse painting technique as she would later reveal.
“There are some works I did under impasto. It is always a mix impressionism, cubism and every other thing. In all of these, I see it as just expressing myself and if I wake up any day and the way I can express myself is in a particular way, nothing stops me from doing that because that’s the particular shade of my being. That’s why I picked the title,” she explained.
To be sure, the piece titled ‘Duality of Nature’ reflects the exhibition theme as well as the artist’s nature as non-binary. The work chronicles the period the artist battled depression. her nature as non-binary, is manifest in series such as ‘Two Seasons’, which is a piece showing human forms each backing the other; and ‘Self Assured’- presented as two nude female figures, representing where the artist accepts herself for who she is.
She fell in love with cubism at an early age because she was always preoccupied with lines. Gradually, she began to explore that in creating her forms on canvas.
“When I looked at people who could draw straight lines, I got fascinated by it. And you know, you become what you admire. So I started veering towards that. I also think it is a part of my nature because I am someone that likes everything to be straight-forward and not beating about the bush. A large bulk of the works in this show were executed this year except ‘Nolstagia.’ I see each of my works like a diary; you connect in different emotions. I don’t want to put ideas into people’s minds by saying what the works are all about,” she said.
Eleez is usually influenced by humans, animals and experiences drawn from daily life.
“For instance, while talking to you now I am inspired. I am influenced by some of the teachers who taught me during my internship and industrial training at the Universal studio of arts. Also, my contemporaries inspire me,” she said.
Ekpetorson’s second solo exhibition which opened on Saturday, June 19, 2021, was organised by Affordable Art Online, promoters of the Ibadan Art Fair.