Tega Akpokona (b. 1991, Benin, Nigeria) creates oil paintings of fictional figures liberated from specific points in time or space. The imaginary characters conjure up his childhood memories and examine the human experience as forged by cultural influences.
Drawing on art history and personal life experiences, Akpokona reflects present-day realities and issues associated with the identity and politics of the Black body. He plays with the concept and effects of dramatic chiaroscuro to portray his subjects as divine beings and “uplift the Black experience”. The viewer is invited on a journey of self-reflection and interpretations, nuanced by their individual perceptions of reality. Light becomes a storytelling technique to examine human interaction and heighten emotions.
Akpokona credits Van Dyk, Rembrandt, and Rubens amongst others as influences on his visual language. However, he takes inspiration from all over, including the Russian Masters, John Singer Sargent, and indeed Aina Onabolu. Inspired by the regality of the characters in Dutch Golden Age portraiture, Akpokona quickly became conscious of his inability to relate with the people in these paintings. His works, therefore, aim to portray and revere everyday Nigerian people, in a way that the viewer would not normally look at them.
Akpokona held his first solo exhibition, Timeless, in 2016 at Terra Kulture in Lagos, Nigeria, and was among the artists selected for TAFETA London’s summer 2018 exhibition. He has exhibited his work in Lagos and London and was presented at the 2018 and 2019 editions of ART X Lagos. A number of his works have been collected by private and public institutions globally. Akpokona holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine and Applied Arts from the University of Benin, Nigeria.