You just can’t miss the larger-than-life murals by London-based visual artist Lakwena Maciver whenever you come across them on street corners and in galleries in Los Angeles, London, Miami and other cities. One of her installations at the South Bank’s Africa Calling was inspired by her first visit to her father’s home in Uganda as an adult. The bold colours and geometric patterns that she uses, she says, draw on the things she remembers growing up in the UK, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Bold statements and bright colours are Lakwena Maciver’s artistic signature. The London-based artist believes in making art accessible and enjoyable and her Instagram-worthy mural, The Power Of Girl in trendy East London proves her point. Inspired by mythology and a passion for adornment, Maciver’s work explores the visual implications of the human decorative instinct as a tool of communication. The urban environment sets the stage for popular culture to unfold its creative potential and the artistically polyglot Maciver is one attentive looker.
My use of colour is a form of escapism…When I was six, I went to Ethiopia for two years and that was like this glimpse of paradise – it was just such a beautiful place and I blended in there. Then I came back here and it was cold and grey and I was very much a minority. The use of colour is a conscious reaction against the grey
Lakwena graduated in 2009 from the London College of Communication where she studied Graphic Media Design and Illustration. ‘’Although you'd assume this was quite commercial, the course ended up feeling a lot like a fine art course. We were sent interesting briefs like designing a religion or documenting a space. Projects like that really opened up my mind and taught me to think conceptually. The course helped me to realize the importance of the concept behind work, beyond just making pretty pictures.’’ She shares in an interview with METAL.
I do feel my art carries a social responsibility. The fact that a lot of my recent work has been paintings on walls in public spaces reflects that. What I like about outside murals is that the artist gets to speak to a larger audience. I recently looked back at my University dissertation which explores the idea of the artist as mythologist -an idea I respond to through my work. Both the size and the public setting allude to the creation of a dialogue with advertising, which is the only other thing out on the street on such a large scale.
‘’For me, art is a way of telling my story…The course that I studied was very conceptual and the emphasis was on communication – wanting to speak has always been important for me, so I began with trying to tell my story and my experience of growing up as a mixed-race girl’’
Ornament really excites me. I've always been inspired by lavish embellishment. Things like the gold-leafed illuminations monks used to make. I love using different materials and textures. I like to create dazzling imagery.
Right now I'm really excited about sequins. I was originally inspired by the sequinned backdrop of the Freddie Mercury statue outside the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road. The sequins are blown by the wind creating a really dazzling light play.
I really wanted to evoke that theatrical feeling so I've now begun to incorporate these sequins into my work. I generally love dressing up and playing with adornment and I find it fascinating that we do that as humans. I guess to me my art is an extension of that.
Incorporating African tribal culture into her Art:
My father is Ugandan and my mother is English. l was born in London, lived in Ethiopia for a little while as a child and spent time in Kenya as a teenager. Though I spent most of my life in England rather than in Uganda, I've always been drawn to a Ugandan/African/'Black' aesthetic as some kind of way of forming and understanding my identity. It's something I consciously try to bring out in my work. I'm aware that a lot of the imagery we see is 'europeanised' and is created by Europeans for Europeans and it conveys a European idea of beauty and value. Through my work, I intend to portray and communicate a different idea of what is beautiful and valuable.