Art We Love: A Spellbinding Ode to Creation

On Patricorel's 'Legalize' (2023).

Patricorel, Legalize (2023). Courtesy the artist.

Mr Eazi is a Nigerian Afrobeats star celebrated for pioneering Banku music, which fuses Ghanaian Highlife with the chord progressions and passions of Nigeria. A serial entrepreneur, he founded emPawa Africa in 2018 as a talent incubator program designed to accelerate the careers of African artists. For his debut studio album, the Evil Genius, he commissioned 15 artists to create artwork matching the tracks.

As artists we are sponges.

With a lot of things around me, I observe without knowing I’m observing and I learn without knowing I’m learning. So when new things come out of me, it’s always a shock to lot of people, including myself. In my music, I didn’t know what I was absorbing by hanging around all these other musical artists, and it’s the same thing with visual art.

The hotel I stay in Benin, Maison Rouge, has a constant flow of art and artists. So I started to just be around different forms of art and started meeting the artists. One day, I had just come back from America, and I walk into Maison Rouge just like I always do to go eat, because they have this lovely vegetable curry. As I’m going in there, I just look to my right and I see this piece. Like, I’ve even walked past and I stop and come back to look at this piece, just fixated.

two skeleton-like figures sit on a red couch next to each other

Patricorel, Good Lovin (2023). Courtesy the artist.

That was the first time I encountered Patricorel’s work. I reached out to him. I told him: I want to go to where you work. He said, OK. I live close to the airport and by the beach, and he starts to take me into a part of the city, which I’ve never gone to in a whole year of recording there. Going to his studio and seeing that whole creative space felt so exciting to me. I get bored easily. So I like to see the layers. I always want to see what is underneath and with art and with artists, you cannot stop taking off layers because there’s always a layer on that layer, and there’s always new inspiration.

So we go into this corner and then we go off road into the street that has his studio, and he unveils this painting: Legalize. It was like when you get gifts during Christmas as a kid, where it’s all wrapped up and you don’t know what to expect. And I had that same feeling I had when I saw his first work, sort of like a fixation. Almost wanting to touch it and he had to tell me, No, you can’t touch it. It’s not yet done. It’s not yet dry.

So this work: Imagine if you’re walking past the park, you see all these parks usually have these chairs where you could go sit down. So take yourself on a trip, walk through the park, and at some point you just stop and you see a couple sitting on those chairs with the park behind them. And then it’s almost like as you stop to look at them, time flies and you start to see them age, you see them go from young to old together, and it’s sort of turns monochrome. And as the scene turns monochrome, you start to see them as sort of like X-rays. So you go beyond seeing their physical features to sort of seeing their mortality.

You start to see some colors start to come beneath, and you see this couple that’s been holding this rose, and the only thing that is colorful is the rose, because out of this love that they’ve shared through this time has come new life, which is signified by these plants that they’re holding together. The plants can mean the energy that that love brings to the world. Or it can be whatever they build together, the life they build together. Or it can manifest in the work they do together, or in the kid they raise together, the family they start together. That symbolizes and continues to pass this energy of love to the world. Because the energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but only transformed from one form to another. And that’s the picture you see.

A man wearing headphones looks at artwork on the wall

Mr Eazi at the exhibition he curated “The Evil Genius” at Gallery 1957 in Accra.

The work means so much to me in regards of how personal it is and the new meaning the art gave my career. It was basically the artwork that solidified my idea to marry my music album to the art. I’ve always been obsessed with explaining or passing across the message of my music through other forms, and I’ve always felt sometimes music videos don’t do the job.

I remember asking Patricorel: Do you know what you’re going to paint? And he said: Sometimes I do, sometimes I do not. After the first stroke of the brush, sometimes it’s like a madness and it comes beautifully together. And I said, Wow. That’s the same way I do my music most times. And so from there I started taking a more deeper interest in visual art, I started collecting from 2020 and, fast forward to 2022, I found the perfect opportunity to join my newfound love of African visual art with music, and it’s sort of like the lifeline that carried my first album. If not for visual art, I wouldn’t have put out any album at all.

But most importantly, what it stands for is a representation of my commitment to my partner. Every time I see that piece, or think about that piece, it reminds me of the commitment and it reminds me of the love that I’ve come to experience and the deeper level of the commitment between two people.

two skeleton-like figures face each other across a table with roses in the middle

Patricorel, Legalize (2023). Courtesy the artist.

I like to feel like everyone on this earth is a product of a big bang magic. I just get obsessed with the science of DNA and the magic of you being you right now, and the odds: What are the odds that you arrived on this planet, and then when you then match that with the odds of whoever you decide to commit with is just crazy, the mathematics is crazy. The mathematics is beautiful. I think deciding to be with somebody on the level of getting married is like a decision or a commitment to share one’s existence with another person. So I think it’s not something to be taken lightly. I think it’s crazy. It blows my mind sometimes. But it’s also beautiful and it makes me smile, especially as it goes to the finality of love with the way Patricorel paints it.

I know I have a special connection to this work because I remember somebody telling me, what is this? Like seeing it and being sort of like scared because not a lot of people want to see skeletons. Right now, when you come into my apartment in Ghana, it’s the first thing you see when you walk in, and I’ve had friends that have first come and been taken aback by the work. But as they look at it, they start to find meaning in the work and they also feel the same joy I feel. Of course for me, it’s always going to be a lot deeper because I interact with it on a very spiritual level, and that explains why I am so spellbound by the work.

–Mr Eazi, as told to Naomi Rea.

Art is more than a thing to hang on your wall. More often, it’s a font for happiness and joy. In Art We Love, we ask charismatic individuals from the art world and beyond to tell us about a work of art that has made a lasting impression 

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