Nigerian-born photographer Vanessa Endeley is in the mood to work, which is a good thing because she’s having her career documented as part of a crop of emerging talent featured on the new British TV show The Next Big Thing. The competition, which launched on February 28 on London Live and runs for six weeks, follows 11 shortlisted artists as they create an original work that captures the spirit of London.
Endeley often uses vibrant colors in her work, and has a knack for communicating raw, human stories in emotive ways. A recent work in progress is a documentary film, Working Women, which chronicles the lives of sex workers in Nigeria and the police abuse they face. The artist is a vocal feminist and her work for the TV show will stress the value of London as a multicultural city that is constantly evolving.
We paid a virtual visit to Endeley’s studio at her apartment in East London to chat about the most indispensable items in her studio, the thinkers who inspire her, and how she relieves tension through dance.
What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?
As a digital artist, I would have to say my MacBook and my Apple Pencil because I can’t draw on Procreate without the pencil, and I can’t work with Photoshop without the MacBook!
Is there a picture you can send of your work in progress?
What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?
Playing around with colors and finding what shades can be brought together to make a visually appealing consistency.
What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?
I always have a Spotify playlist in my ears while working because music gives me a sense of ease and relaxation that complete silence isn’t able to. I listen to different genres of music depending on my mood and I’d like to think this translates in my work. The reason my portraits are so colorful is that they were created in a state of happiness.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?
I can’t say I despise any trait in a work of art because art is subjective and there is nothing to dislike about the way an artist chooses to express themselves. When I look at a piece of art I am mostly drawn to the use of colors and textures, I admire the ability to tell a story or spark my inquisitiveness.
What snack food could your studio not function without?
Hot fudge sundae Pop-Tarts.
Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?
Bisa Butler, Tonia Nneji, Virginia Damtsa, and Destinee Ross-Sutton.
When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?
Dance. It’s the only way I can release the tension in my mind. Dancing and recording myself doing it is fun—thankfully these videos will never make it to the internet.
What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?
Zanele Muholi’s solo exhibition at the Tate in December 2020. I have admired their work for a really long time and it was amazing to see it in person. Art as a method of activism has always intrigued me and Muholi’s work fully embodies the idea of telling very relevant stories while engaging the viewers with artistic visuals.
If you had to put together a mood board, what would be on it right now?
Pastel colors, a Sony A7III camera, ProCreate, my passport, a beach in the Caribbean, and a Mimosa. I haven’t been on holiday in so long due to the pandemic and I feel a beach holiday is just what I need to gain inspiration!