How Mofoluso Eludire reimagines comfort and restraint in her works

Mofoluso Eludire is a Lagos-based artist whose work explores real human experiences of self-image, self-acceptance, and reflection. She aims to create sustained conversations about people and society, especially on issues relating to women. “I’m inspired by the human form and the emotions derived from my introspection of life experiences, including stories about women,” she says. Mofoluso’s works attempt to create narratives that speak to the Black female experience. In this chat with The Moveee, she explores, as a central element to her work, the positive side of restraint and the negative side of comfort.

TOPE AKINTAYO: When did you decide that you wanted to be an artist, and why and how? 

MOFOLUSO ELUDIRE: The first time I thought about art was due to motivation from my mom. She was not a practitioner in any art field but loved and appreciated art. She took me to galleries and around the art hubs at the university. That was the foundation of my interest in art.

Okay, so you studied it?

Yes, I studied drawing and fine arts at OAU. 

What would you say prompted your mum to want to introduce you to arts specifically instead of conventional careers like medicine?

My mum’s decision was influenced by experience outside the conventional Nigerian parent perspective. She was more open to exploring other fields. Interestingly my parents never dictated what we were supposed to study. They will ask us what we want, and if that works for us, no problem.

Did you consider any other study options besides art?

Initially, I considered Law, but thousands of people were already heading that way, and I was not interested in following the crowd.

What has it been like practising art, and how’s it coming along?

It’s been very interesting. As soon as I found out that art was a thing I could study, I started going to meet up with people to show me the way. Thinking about it as a career (especially after school when I had to figure out how to make money from my art) was a struggle because breaking into the arts scene in Lagos for someone moving in from Ile-Ife, where I studied, was not the easiest thing. I had to start networking, figuring out who to talk to and how to get into shows. So, I think getting into shows is the major issue I had with the whole process because most of those shows I was trying to apply to already selected those they wanted in it. Trying to get into that circle or space where people realise or notice you as a new person was also a struggle. But I did have help — when you start to talk with friends and all, things turn around.

Conversations with myself (2021). Mofoluso Eludire.

I believe that networking and community are major contributors to growth across all career choices. What strategies have you used as an artist to build relationships and meet people that eventually supported your growth?

I don’t think that I had a strategy. I just relate to people the traditional way I would as a person. It wasn’t like a business strategy where I said, “Oh, I want to make connections with people.” It just started as a basic friendship, appreciating their work, and then, from there, we started conversations, and then we became friends. And then, I would say that mentors have also played certain roles in my career. I did an internship for about a year with one of the master artists, Ejoh Wallace, and then I had other mentors, like Mr Femi Oyewole. These people have, in certain ways, helped me achieve certain goals on the way to where I am today.

You mentioned meeting people and sparking conversations with them. In what settings do you usually meet new people?

Mostly in art exhibitions. A lot of people come around to view people’s works at exhibitions. Most of these people are usually artists, whom I’ll link up with, and we’ll start conversations. There was a certain point before COVID when galleries would have artists’ talks and events, which was also an avenue to meet like-minded individuals. I also meet people via Instagram. When I stumble upon a person I’d love to connect with, I simply message them, and we’ll start conversations from there.

What is your art medium of choice, and what influenced your decision to choose the particular medium and method you use?

My previous works were oil paintings. But I have changed from oil to acrylic because I feel like that suits my style better and because of the smell of oil. In terms of style, I would classify myself under impressionism.

when it all comes down. (2021). Mofoluso Eludire

From your artist statement, you wrote that you attempt to create narratives that speak to the Black female experience. So, could you reflect more on this so we can get a deeper idea of the message you tend to pass across in your works?

As you can see, I am Black and female; these are things that I relate to daily. There is always a narrative that comes into play, whether gender biases, self-identity, self-awareness or something else. There’s always something that comes into play, but I tend to make my narratives in line with something I am comfortable with, which is the female experience, because I can only speak so much for myself.

So what would you say distinguishes your work from other artists out there? What makes it unique and distinct?

Well, I think I make it distinct. There’s nothing new under the sun, and nothing is created out of nothing. I get experiences or influences from other people, so I won’t say that everything is mine, but the fact that I am putting in my narrative and personal experiences and trying ways to express myself sets my work apart.

What year would you say you started fully creating for the public commercially?

That would be 2018, the year I graduated from OAU.

So since then, what are some of your most exciting wins?

I think it would just be showing my works in exhibitions, and the fact that I have been able to present my work to the public will be that I think that’s sort of like a big deal.

As an artist, you need to come up with different ideas, especially when you want to visually deepen your narrative and present it in an art form. What inspires you? What are the things, people, or places you go to when you want to develop new ideas for your work?

When I think about a new narrative, I tend to read novels, especially African novels. Then, if that doesn’t work, I’ll probably just try talking with other artists. Sometimes, however, I just scroll through Instagram or Pinterest to see what other people are doing, which motivates me to think of my work differently. In terms of influences, my environment influences my work. I have moved to different spaces in the last few years, and consequently, I have seen changes in my work.

Safe in Solace II (2021). Mofoluso Eludire

Tell me about your series Safe in Solace (2021). What is the inspiration for creating it?

It was a series of entanglements, restraints, and about the freedoms that we have coupled with the fears that hold us back from freedom. In terms of synthesis, when I first thought about the concept, I was moving from one art style to the other. If you check through my website, you will see different styles I have tried out years before. I was thinking about trying something new and more flexible that doesn’t feel so rigid or restricting. 

I thought that when we think of restraint or entanglements, we usually think about bad things holding us back and causing obstructions. But come to think of it, these bad things could be good. It’s just the fact that they’re coming at the wrong times. So I thought about putting flowers into play, where the flower entangles or wraps around the figure. Flowers are usually considered beautiful things, but they’re acting as a restraint in this case. In Conversations with Myself (2021), you’ll see the flower wrapped around the arm, chest, and other body parts. That was the inspiration behind the flowers in that series.

When I think of Safe in Solace (2021), I think about companionship instead of relying on others. There are certain points in life where you are restricted, but you have also found a safe space within your restriction. The work is about comfort being a sort of restriction to growth. Comfort is a good thing, but it also causes restriction.

I love what you mentioned about flowers being both a beauty to behold, wrapping around your subjects and acting as a restriction. It’s so symbolic and beautiful. Your work, Rouge (2019), is a female face looking into the distance. What’s the story behind it?

It is an idea of colours and emotions and trying to see which colours complement certain emotions. Rogue has a title inspired by the fact that I was learning French while working on the piece. As I said, my environment or my experiences influence my interest, but this time around, in terms of the title of the work. This body of work explored people’s expressions and responses to overwhelming emotions. I tried to achieve this through colours.

What are you excited about for the future, and what are the new things you are trying to experiment with?

I’m looking to further my narrative to figure out where it stands and how I can help the public relate better to my works. In the next few years, I would probably have put in for more shows, maybe a solo show, and probably have done my MFA.

“Takes two” (2021). Mofoluso Eludire
Rouge (2019). Mofoluso Eludire
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