Kome Eleyae in Conversation with OTP
8 January 2019
Instantly recognisable, his style is dominated by strong contrasts. Thick layers of paint create this effect physically. But there’s also a big difference between the vibrant character of his portraits and the calm and solitary atmosphere of his studio.
Currently living and studying in Edinburgh I call him ahead of his January exhibition at the Dundas Street Gallery.
We talk about the coming year.
KE 2018 - a lot of stuff planned. I’ve got some big collaborations coming up!
One with the talented Wami Aluko, that will be awesome, taking common Yoruba phrases and pidgin English phrases and making these big caption posters. There’s a Canadian artist on Instagram called HateCopy who does a similar thing but parodying Desi culture. Ours are newspaper inspired, Emory Douglas sort of publications. And I'm hopefully doing a graphic novel.
OTP A graphic novel? What's the plan with that?
KE There’s this artist who I found through some mutual friends, he’s a photogapher sorry, called Nosa. We both started liking each other’s stuff and we’re both into Japanese anime, graphic novels etc. I recently found out about this black samurai called Yasuke [Wikipedia], a real character, no a real guy. Missionaries took him from Portugal to Japan, I forget when it was - I forget what century.
Obviously I’ve got a lot to do and a lot of people to see to get this done but this is a big project for next year, a sort of afro-samurai type thing
OTP So how will the collaboration work with regards to combining the photography with your painting?
KE Yeah so a similar thing with Wami as well. Taking photographs where we both have control of the shoot, of the composition. Some are half-painted, some are completely painted over the top. Some, where it’s just the photo. There’ll be a shot where he’s about to slash someone with his katana and its painted over with the acrylic.
Obviously there’s the big show as well! [07767846475 Exhibition]. I need to remember the number off by heart.
Great show coming up. Really gassed for that. Great artists. There’ll be some clothes there too. I’m trying to get my own clothes sorted for that.
OTP Can you say anything about what you’ll be showing?
Instead of doing all just rappers – because I did that, I finished the whole “East Meets West” collection - the last one I did, the A$AP Rocky one was really moving away from what I was doing in the older ones. I want to start some completely new stuff. More female figures. Changing the composition. I’m into more black and white stark now, painting the faces in monochrome. Or blue and white/red and white. Different colour schemes.
The East Meets West ones have given me the confidence to try out different colour ways.
OTP How do you decide on a colour scheme for a painting?
KE I cant even lie, one or two times it's had to depend on how much paint I have at the time. I always have blue, black and white though. Also I just feel that some images lend themselves to certain colour ways more than others. It depends how interesting the lighting is in colour, compared to black and white.
The whole rapper collection made my work last year very male-centric and I don’t like that.
For the show I’m doing a series about musicians who have passed away from narcotic abuse. Whitney Houston – that’s a commission, a Jimi Hendrix one, Amy Winehouse, all people whose music resonates with me. So yeah there’s that series. Also my self-portrait will be there – I want to do one a year. I got to Christmas and I realised I hadn’t done one so as soon as that Christmas cash came in I bought canvases.
OTP How does this year’s portrait compare to the last?
KE I like this one a lot more. There’s a poem that I wrote with it. I have poems sort of written in my head ages before I write them down in my book. I like to get to the point of reciting them to the end without writing them down.
I can't sleep.
Frenzied weekdays leave me craving for solitude.
Yet the monotony of lonely and desolate afternoons
Only fuels my nightmares of chaos and violence.
Eyelids are scared open every ten minutes.
The space behind them burns
As time presses on relentlessly
And the night folds into morning again.
Morning rituals of getting ready provide the only calm.
Or maybe it's just procrastination
Before stumbling down the wooden steps into a day that I'm never prepared for.
I remain hopeful that this day will be a good one.
And pray hopelessly for answered prayers
KE I want to start exhibtiong my paintings with the poems that have inspired them. I’m really inspired by literature and film. Like I’ve got an idea for a diptych where this girl is playing a modern day version of Myrtle from Gatsby. The first shot is of her – the seductive, just the peng sort of Myrtle that runs away to New York. The second piece will be her getting hit by the car. Moments before the collision.
When I’m not painting celebrities I have a lot more control over what I do.
OTP If you had complete control, could exhbit anywhere you wanted, where would you pick?
KE Give me a minute to think. Do you know Rivington place? The architect David Adjaye designed it. The British-Ghanaian architect. There are a lot of great shows there. I saw one of my all time favourite shows there. I will send it to you. Black Chronicles II
But I don’t really mind as long as it gets out there somehow. Billboards. That could be a thing. I’ll just get some billboards rolled out nationwide. Then I’ll retire. I can imagine being a retired architect, just spending my evenings chilling, watching NBA.
KE Courtside?! Not quite. Back at the crib. Hopefully I’ll have an MTV worthy crib.
OTP Who's your team?
KE The Boston Celtics have been my team for a while. I have big love for the current team but just when I first started following basketball their team was popping man, they had a mad team. My boy KG (Kevin Garnett), Rajon Rondo, I had his jersey! Paul Pierce, The Truth! And Ray Allen for a year but there’s beef with that.
[OMMISSION OF CONTROVERSIAL NBA MATERIAL BY COURT ORDER]
KE 1 x KA (dark grape)
1 x KA (fruit punch)
1 x Doritos (Cool Original)
1 x Kinder Bueno
1 x Juicy Fruit
Maybe a rice krispie square. I don’t like sweets.
OTP If you had five pounds to spend in a Londis what would you buy?
OTP What’s your phone screensaver at the moment?
KE Ah, a picture of me and my dad when I was kid, when I was about 2 or 1. No probably not even 1 yet. He’s wearing these white chinos, no socks with some suede loafers and some white top with the chequered shirt over the top. He’s just carrying me in the baby holder and I’m wearing some tartan trousers and this jeans jacket with my hair tied up in plaits. OG. OG team. I think it was taken at the Docklands. That’s what it says on the back of the photo.
OTP Advice for the readers?
KE Don’t assume people are stupid
Don’t take things for granted
Be someone you’d want to chill with