State of Beings (Totem) : installation, 220 x510x452x4 cm, acrylic vinyl and metal on wood panel and vinyl mat, 2013, Courtesy of the artist and Fondation Jean-Paul Blachère, Apt, France.
State of Beings is a mixed media installation that combines painting and sculpture in equal measure. The sculptural portion of the work stands upright against the wall whereas the painting is primarily on the floor. The two connect through the continuous lines of Nsibidi, an ancient graphic system that is autochthonous to south-eastern Nigeria and the Ejagham area of northern Cameroon. The swirling script-like patterns of State of Beings are also based on Ekpuk’s own invented signs. The fluidity of the symbols creates continuity in the installation, merging the wall into the ground seamlessly. Conceptually, the installation is a totemic portrayal of the male-female binary as composite of the human condition. The two figures physically face each other. Their emotional and psychic connection is evident in the thick red line that runs across the work, from the head of the male figure to the head of the female.
Victor Ekpuk was born in Nigeria in 1964. In 1989 Victor received his Bachelor of Fine Art degree (BFA), Obafemi Awowolo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, where he first explored the aesthetic philosophies in indigenous African art forms like Nsibidi, and Uli. Their economy of lines and encoded meanings led him to further explore drawing as writing, and to the invention of his own glyphs. In addition to operating a painting studio in Lagos, he was also a prominent editorial illustrator/political cartoonist for Nigerian newspapers before moving to the United States in 1999. He currently lives and works in Washington DC.