In her debut solo exhibition in Lagos, Tiffany-Annabelle Davies shares with candour and self-assurance the experiences of the female sex during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdown with her audience. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke reports
MissAligned? Albeit a mere play with words, this title is an unnerving reminder of humanity’s fall from grace. It evokes the entanglements caused by the recurrent willful opposition to the natural order, which has already dragged on for millennia. Indeed, the current afflictions and horrors are the result of the forcible disentangling or the unravelling of hitherto diverted courses of the life-sustaining power-currents. But, to Tiffany-Annabelle Davies, whose debut solo exhibition opens on Sunday, October 17, the word is an Open Sesame to her private world of intimate storytelling forms. A curatorial statement about the exhibition – holding at No Parking Lagos along Military Street in the Onikan neighbourhood – avers that its originating thoughts were conceptualised during the 2020 global lockdown.
During this enforced period of isolation, the University of Surrey, UK law graduate was afforded an amplified perspective into her personal struggles. Hence, hers is an endeavour that has taken form from her musings on anxiety, female identity and body morphology, among other things.
Then, there is the prefixing of the root word “aligned” with the designation “Miss”. Though an ingenious pun, it nonetheless still retains the original concept that alludes to an improper position. Speaking of which, ceding a supreme position to the human intellect above the gut feeling (the voice of his spirit) – contrary to the natural ordinance – has unleashed unpleasant consequences. Among these consequences is the estrangement of the human creature from his environment.
By extension, Davies’ patented play with lines – which are reminiscent of childlike doodles – also leaves an impression of things going off on a tangent. And about this, she intimates: “I enjoy the flow of the lines. There is something therapeutic in letting the charcoal run freely across a canvas. With my signature triangle symbol, the movement seems almost meditative in the repetitive nature each triangle is formed.”
Her “signature triangle” symbols open further channels – or “new bridges”, as she calls them – for her musings. Hence, the curatorial statement credits her with the following assertion: “Juxtaposed against the fluid lines of the female form, we are reminded that women, in all stages of their lives, are encouraged to achieve certain perfections which have grown into societal pressures.”
In any case, these societal pressures are oblivious – if not indifferent – to the woman’s real task, which lies far above her mere earthly existence. Contrary to the debasing expectations that consider marriage and maternal bliss as her highest goals, the woman is naturally equipped to uplift her surroundings through a Divinely-willed activity.
Besides, her gender is merely a visible expression of the nature of her activities, which could be deemed delicate or subtle. This is as opposed to the male gender’s coarse and physically stronger activities.
It is against the backdrop of the foregoing that the artist’s stance should be understood. “I believe it is important for people to keep talking about their experiences to keep reminding women that there is value in who they are beyond the self-imposed perfections they try to achieve,” she says.
Through MissAligned, which features a collection of charcoal, acrylic and oil pastel works on paper and canvas, she dredges up the unpalatable experiences that resonate with those of many women during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic crisis and shares them with a wider audience. Concluding on Sunday, October 24, the solo exhibition is being curated by Naomi Edobor, a cultural worker whose curatorial credentials, the public has been assured, are first-rate.
Davies’ grand entrance into the local exhibition’s circuit positions her as an artist with a unique vision, that deems the body of each woman “perfect with its imperfections”. This, understandably, explains why MissAligned, albeit naïve in its expression, sufficiently seethes with her self-assurance.
There is, in addition, a subtext of defiance in her audacious and figurative cavort with lines and colours, which pulsate with her ideas, feelings and emotions. “My technique is constantly evolving as I explore the different mediums that I experiment with at various stages of my career,” the curatorial statement further quotes the artist as saying.
Meanwhile, the Delta State native remains undaunted by the profusion of talents in the Lagos, where she co-runs a social media agency, called Méji with her sister. “We are a startup with a great team providing social media management and digital branding.”
Davies loves the vibes of the Lagos art scene and is fascinated by the fact that more and more talents step forward to express themselves. “My art speaks for itself and I feel so touched that I’ve started growing a foundation of collectors, who are moved by what I do,” she discloses. “If my work makes a difference in their lives, then that’s a start I’m happy with.”
Living in Lagos at the moment, for her, implies that there are “no typical days”. “However, I’ve learnt to compartmentalise what stresses me and make time to work on my art. A routine I’ve managed to maintain is starting my morning with tea, mainly ginger or matcha tea. During this time, I sip, write notes, look through my sketchbook to see what ideas I want to build on.”
Flashback to her childhood years. She recalls that, at the age of six, drawing was the first thing she had done without being told by anyone to do it. “It felt like yesterday but when I was about six years old, I picked up one of my storybooks and drew the Three Little Pigs. Everyone thought I had traced them and when they realised I didn’t, I started having art lessons in school.”
Though he never stopped drawing throughout the subsequent years, it only took the uncertainties of the year 2020 to draw her out of her shell. In the meantime, the art world had kept calling out her “in whispers”, as she explored creative graphic design and even became self-taught in Photoshop and Illustrator. It took the pandemic lockdown period to force her to the realisation that art deserved to be placed on a pedestal as one of the most important things to her.
Then, music and nature co-conspired to help her transcend the commonplace and gain access to higher thoughts. “I love how certain songs move me to draw and I get a lot of colour inspiration from making a habit [of] always looking [out of] windows, keeping curious,” she clarifies.
Yet, fear turns out to be the biggest influence of her exhibition. This fear, she conjectures, is at the root of the palpable anxieties densifying the subtle material environment. It is the latter that she happily harnessed for her creativity.
Perhaps, it is this that makes MissAligned a show worth seeing and mulling over.