Polo Lifestyles January 2019: Snow Polo

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Renegade Arrival EMMANUEL UNAJI

Raphael Dapaah | Art Contributor raphaeldapaah@hotmail.co.uk

There is an exception to every rule – a renegade that arrives on the scene to upset the status quo through determined quiet rebellion against shackled and confined ideas and narratives. One such exception comes in the answer to the question, “Is fashion a true art form?” The debate between two sides for decades, one arguing that fashion is a practical form of art; the other defending the notion that art and fashion are entirely separate matters without comparison, was settled in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the sensational and innovative Andy Warhol. Warhol did what had never been done before: he fused fine art with fine fashion. Not only did he achieve this feat, he wedded the two so effortlessly that, in hindsight, we can’t imagine a world in which art and fashion do not co-exist harmoniously. Warhol paved the way for young and daring fashion houses to collaborate with fine artists, demonstrating their work on a medium more dynamic and agile than a blank canvas, literally bringing new life and movement to their paintings and forcing the wearer to become both the viewer and the subject of the artist. When I came across Emmanuel Unaji’s work for the first time at the vernissage of an exhibition that a friend of mine curated in the heart of Soho, London’s bohemian capital, I was reminded of

a young Warhol in the 50’s. The piece that struck me most was a collage of the first British Vogue cover under the new editor-in- chief, Edward Enninful, starring Adwoa Aboah. Bold, striking, and hauntingly beautiful - the power in Unaji’s pieces are the eyes that draw you in, but always somehow remain distant, cold, and dare I say, absent. I was keen to learn more about Unaji and his inspirations, as I quickly sensed the young artist was one on the rise, and one who could potentially enjoy the celebrity status of contemporary British artists such as Damien Hirst and Chris Ofili, once his scent is picked up by the perpetually starved established art patrons and collectors.

Dragons’ Den style. Imagine that in any African household,’’ he laughed. What really peaked my interest in Unaji was that for an artist of such obvious promise, where most emerging artists would stick to honing their craft, he somehow also manages to dabble and excel in other mediums of art and creativity, not least fashion design and modeling. With such a renaissance approach to the arts, I wondered what his thoughts on fine and street art were, as well as his other creative outlets and interests.

‘‘Street art is an attempt to encourage critical thinking - almost like society is sitting in one group critique. A bit ironic for a fashion model, but I think social media’s influence on a searching Unaji is a multimedia fine artist of Nigerian origin, based in London and generation is one to beware. The street art is a way to represent someone disKent, whose work combines painting, secting information and extracting the drawing, collage and fashion design. essence of “I’m one ‘‘Street art is an attempt to encourage criti- statements. I half of art and design cal thinking - almost like society is sitting in want aspects one group critique. A bit ironic for a fashion of my work company, Unaji & Co, model, but I think social media’s influence to remind and I’m also on a searching generation is one to beware. people that currently The street art is a way to represent someone the online studying dissecting information and extracting the world is superficial. Fine Art at essence of statements. I think for Kingston School of Art,’’ said the artist. one to exist in a personally balanced and successful condition is the greatest ‘‘My upbringing was key to my jourstatement of all.’’ ney – my two loving parents had a profound impact on my perspective ‘‘Fine art, to me, is just the exaggerated version of life; it’s all about language, on life. A real close family, my parents’ separation played a monumental role perspective and communicating emotions. Fine art is central as it allows me on focusing my ambition. In 2015, my to incorporate aspects of modeling and brother Lemuel, who’s also an artist, and I pitched the idea of art and design fashion.” as a viable career path to our mum,

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