I'm always on the hunt for new artists, hungry for more Beauty. Recently, through an online friend, I had the good fortune to discover the work of Iké Udé, a remarkable artist, born in Nigeria and based in New York. Part photographer and part author, Udé is, wholly, a shape-shifter and story-teller, whose work is difficult to classify. One might say, his photographs aspire to the sophistication of paintings, or resemble stills from a fantastic unmade film, teasingly offering the viewer fictional characters extracted from unwritten fairytales.
Often using himself as the canvas for his beguiling imagination, this artist is fond of performing the drama of selfhood. Udé does so by assuming different personalities/ personas, in his Sartorial Anarchy self-portraits, while also creating evocative environments for them to inhabit:
A kind of anachronistic dandy, Udé seems to embody Wilde's aphorism: One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art. What's more, Udé actually writes aphorisms --a time-honored form of wisdom literature, such as epigrams, maxims or proverbs, that is staging a comeback, thanks, to social media and our generally shortened attention spans.
Below, some examples of Udé's pithy one-liners, on the philosophy of photography, from his book Nollywood Portraits:
When I really, really want to feel an individual, I do his/her portrait; when I want to see an individual, I dream about him/her; when I want to touch the individual I caress the picture instead.
Self-portrait is not necessarily a way of knowing oneself; it’s a way of taking a needed break from the self.
Selﬁes are an embarrassment to Narcissus.
The best portraits reveal as much as they conceal; open yet inscrutable; near-conclusive, yet in deferred conclusion.
A portrait without poetic dimensions reduces a subject to half the individual.
What can’t be written is visualized.
The visual language is the supremacy of silence.
Visiting Udé's wonderland, one is reminded of another unclassifiable artist and provocateur, who also imagined his own universe and performed his life, Salvador Dali. The ever-quotable, great Surrealist, Dali, referred to his own art work as "hand-painted, dream photographs" - an apt description, if any, of Udé's own art.
Straddling the worlds of fashion, celebrity, and art, Udé's words and images can be found in magazines, newspapers, books, permanent collections of prestigious museums, such as Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Smithsonian Museum of Art, and the New Britain Museum of American Art as well as private collections.
I invite you to discover the playful and enchanted world of Iké Udé for yourself.
When I was in New York, I was fortunate to sit for Udé & become a part of his dream world :) Here's one of the products of our creative collaboration -- I gravitated towards the fez & hand, after he allowed me to rummage through his extensive, marvelous wardrobe !