Disclaimer: Before we start this memoir, I would just like to state I do not own the following pictures. The aim of all of these memoirs is to educate.
When you google the word perception, you get two definitions. The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses”, and The way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.
So perception is both physical and mental. Starting with the physical, our brains. Our brains aid in our perception of the world and have some amazing feats. For example, it contains approximately one hundred billion neurons, it uses 20% of the oxygen and blood in our bodies, and in terms of storage, it is estimated it can store 2,500,000 GB of data. Just to put that into perspective my iPad has a storage of 128 GB, so that’s 20,000 human brains or so. But the brain has some limitations, and this leads us to optical illusions.
To keep it simple, we can see because light bounces off objects, once that light enters our eyes, an electrical signal is sent to our brain, the brain processes it and we get our vision. But at times, that simple process can fail us. There’s an old saying, “what you see is what you get”, well sometimes it isn’t.
For example, the Anomalous Motion illusion, the image may look like it is moving but it’s not. Our brains process different parts of the image at a different rate. The image you see below consists of high contrast and low contrast elements. The high contrast parts are picked up much slower by the brain than the low contrast parts.
The next picture is of a castle located in Disneyland, you may think it is a huge and grand castle.
But look at this picture, here we can see some workers performing some maintenance on our “huge” and “grand” castle.
What you just saw was an example of forced perspective. Depending on where you view a certain object it can appear to be either larger or smaller than its actual size.
Here is the final optical illusion, the Müller-Lyer illusion. Now, look at the two lines.
The top middle line may be longer than the bottom middle line. But look at the next image, both lines are the same length.
So, that’s perception with respects to the physical but what about its mental definition.
In terms of myself, I grew up in Neasden. Neasden isn’t Victoria, the streets aren’t littered with houses worth 2 to 5 million pounds. When I was growing up my mum made it very clear, “Do not enter South London!”, and to be fair she based her decision on what she saw on the news. Her perception of those areas was shaped by the media, and this indivertibly affected my perception of South London. Fast forward today and my perception of South London has completely changed, and to be frank My mum’s perception of South London is wrong and outdated, and I think if we look at who owns the UK media, 80% of it is owned by five billionaires and it is because of this that these problems regarding perception arise, the average person doesn’t receive an array of different narratives. If I could sum up what I have learnt about the UK media, I would say it produces sensationalized stories from time to time, and in terms of what I have learnt about Londoners, all areas of London are “bad” to someone.
So, with that being said, let’s talk about this month’s artist and how his work also explores the definitions of perception.
Sani Sani or Inxsanixty (pronounced insanity) is an artist based in Peckham. When the artist was growing up, he researched the meaning of his name and he learnt a lot. In Arabic, the name means, “brilliant or intelligent one”, and Navajo which is the language spoken amongst Native American means, “the old one”. But Sani was intrigued by the Arabic meaning, and he wanted to have a moniker that included his name and related to knowledge.
The artist’s moniker is made from three things, “in”, “Sani” his name and “ty”, and are connected by x. The “x”s combine the three. “in” is synonymous with the word, entry. “ty”, comes from the words, identity or entity. If you couple the three meanings, Inxsanixty means “the entry into knowledge of one’s self”. Even beyond the art, Inxsanixty sees this moniker as a part of his identity.
In terms of his origins, Inxsanixty is of Nigerian descent, his mother is from the South and is from the Edo tribe and Nupe tribe. With regards to his father, he is from the North and is from the Hausa-Fulani tribe and Nupe tribe too.
Even though he is Nigerian, Inxsanixty sees himself as a Londoner and a man from Peckham. But it was not a smooth journey to this identity, just like me Inxsanixty wrestled with this idea of “Black Britishness”. Inxsanixty stated in our interview at the age of 7 he was still coming to grips with his own identity, “I never knew I was dark skin; I knew I was black, but I never thought of it. In Nigeria, I knew black in different languages.”, and it is here at a young age that the artist’s story begins.
As a child in Nigeria, Inxsanixty would always draw on his note pad. It was not just drawing that fascinated the artist, he would create raps, poems and dances. As a child growing up in Nigeria, Inxsanixty saw dancing as his first hustle and it is true West Africans are known for giving money to children who can dance at parties, it’s part of our culture. “When we were going to parties, I knew I was going to go and dance. Because I knew they were going to spray me with money.”.
Growing up Inxsanixty never considered a career in art. His childhood dream was to be a part of something that was related to Nigeria’s military. Regardless of this dream, it did not stifle the artist’s fascination for art, especially abstract art.
Asking inquisitive questions was second nature to Inxsanixty as a child, he had an appetite for knowledge. “I was doing what a kid would do. (…) At that age you are exploring, you want to know.”.
When Inxsanixty was 15, he returned to London and during this time, the artist was heavily into skateboarding and street dancing. But even then, he still did not consider a career in art.
Moreover, due to completing his secondary education a year early, Inxsanixty spent an extra year in college. With his college education finished, Inxsanixty went on to study Aeronautical Engineering at Brighton University. While there, Inxsanixty continued to draw and it even caught the attention of his friends, who would constantly think he studied fine art. This was something Inxsanixty would constantly refute, he would correct them, and they would always forget.
The artist did encounter some roadblocks during his first year. In April he fell ill, but he was able to recover and complete his first year. During his time off from university, he continued to draw, and he began to like it even more, he enjoyed that feeling, and he did not want it to stop. This coupled with him buying a camera and being away from London fuelled his artistic side.
As well as that, during that period, Inxsanixty began his digital paintings. If we fast forward to today, it is one of his iconic styles within his catalogue of work. Gar Ìn (created 2019) is an example of how he creates some of his digital paintings, the artist takes two photos and layers them on each other.
Gar Ìn is a Hausa word and translates to place or town. It is here we see the merging of Inxsanixty’s different identities, Inxsanixty states that identity is a big factor in his work. Looking at the piece, there is an incoming Number 12 bus going to Peckham and coming from another road are two figures riding horses, who are wearing Hausa-Fulani attire. It is where the two roads meet that I think is symbolic of Inxsanixty’s identity. He is a man of everywhere, who has been moulded by the different places he has lived in.
Gar Ìn (created 2019) [Digital Painting]
Another digital painting is Dan’Gida (created 2019). Dan’Gida is also a Hausa word and translates to “Children of the House”. This painting is part of a series, which incorporates white lines into every piece. Inxsanixty states that this series is more to do with figures’ expression than his identity.
What is clever about this piece is it covers the figure’s eyes, and just like Mirror (painted 2017) which we will see later, creates an unknown feeling. By obscuring the eyes, we the viewer are drawn into the piece. Inxsanixty has sparked our curiosity, we want to know what emotions the figure is experiencing. Also, we could even argue, is the figure even looking at us? However, it is suggested that the figure is in fact looking towards us due to the use of Linear Perspective. Linear Perspective will be explained later in this memoir during the art analysis for Fulani Woman (painted 2016).
Dan’Gida (created 2019) [Digital Painting]
With his first year completed. Inxsanixty began his second year and began posting his digital paintings online. Towards the end of his second year, the artist realised that Aeronautical Engineering was not his calling. “I was doing it because I wanted to join the air force as a pilot or an engineer, and in the air force, a lot of pilots are doing other jobs. Why? because we are not at war and there is not a lot of planes.”.
The idea of joining the air force stemmed from the idea of power and notoriety. As a child in Nigeria, Inxsanixty saw the status and power that was bestowed to people who were a part of Nigeria’s military. He saw that their power could even surpass the power of money. To add to that, his father was a police officer and was highly respected. However, his perception of the military changed when he returned to the UK. When he was 15, the artist joined the cadets and he noticed a difference between how the military was perceived in the UK and it was this difference that informed his decision to a part of the air force.
With his decision regarding his course set in stone, Inxsanixty used that summer to delve deeper into his art, and it was his commanding officer of the 56 Woolwich Squadron, Squadron Leader Mark Bird that gave him that final push.
Just like his friends at university, his commanding officer would always assume he studied fine art. One day his commanding officer called him and requested a piece for his new house. His commanding officer asked him how his degree in fine art was going, and Inxsanixty reminded him again. During their conversation, his commanding officers advised the artist to pursue his dream. “If you know anything about the military, they’re not convincing nobody. It is not there to convince you to do something else. So, I knew it was coming from a place of care.”.
Besides his commanding officers, multiple people from Peckham were saying the same thing. “Everybody was screaming, art! Art! And so, I had to think, what could I do if money never existed? What could I do till I die? Because I am tired of all these changes.”.
From that point onwards Inxsanixty knew he wanted to do something related to art, “I kind of realised through art, I could do a lot of what I wanted to do.”.
After leaving Aeronautical Engineering at Brighton University, the artist decided to transfer to London’s Southbank University and study Architectural Engineering. While in London the artist painted every day and posted his work on Instagram.
Inxsanixty would also land his first solo exhibition at the House of Vans. During that summer he left Brighton, Inxsanixty was attending his friend’s performance, and while there the artist was carrying some canvases. This piqued the interest of the organisers. After looking at his work, they immediately set up a solo exhibition.
Inxsanixty’s confidence grew and during that summer he began to email galleries and collectors, attaching his work. His emails would either be ignored or rejected but this did not deter the artist. Instead, Inxsanixty used those replies and showed them to pop-ups to set up exhibitions. From Holborn to Shoreditch, Inxsanixty talked his way into multiple group exhibitions.
With 1 solo exhibition and a couple of group exhibitions, Inxsanixty began his year at Southbank. However, the artist would reach another roadblock. Due to an entire module failing to appear on his timetable, the artist was not allowed to progress to next year. The university apologised for this mistake, but the only consolation they could offer was for him to repeat the year and just do that module. Inxsanixty was disheartened due to the amount of time he was still at university. But with the support of his mother, Inxsanixty decided to transfer to the University of Greenwich. Using the credits from his previous degree, he switched to Events Management and graduated.
With university finished, Inxsanixty could truly focus on his art and he hit the ground running. Inxsanixty wanted to make sure that everybody knew he was an artist, “I had a system where nobody was safe. (…) anybody who I came across was gonna find out I am an artist.”. From Jehovah Witnesses to charity workers, Inxsanixty would twist the conversation to ensure that they knew he was an artist, “I think you get to a point, where you got to own it, regardless of how you are looked at, this is who you are.”. Inxsanixty would continue to expand his network and this would land him the opportunity to exhibit his work in New York.
But bad luck would follow the artist again. Between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, the artist broke his phone which had his art, lost access to his emails and was unable to attend his New York exhibition. With all this misfortune, the artist did not know what to do. But after gathering his thoughts, the artist went back to work and kept on networking. “I wanted to paint, so I picked up the canvas and paint, and painted!”.
After building his momentum, Inxsanixty was able to secure a five-day exhibition. The artist states it was a massive success, from good marketing and promo to even his old commanding officer coming down, every day of the exhibition was busy.
In Inxsanixty’s opinion, the moment he considered himself as an artist was in 2015, when he entered a competition. His work reached the final and came 3rd place. The artist knew his work was unique, but he never considered it art, “I told the judges I was an artist through my work, and they believed me.”. This achievement fuelled his self-belief and confidence in his ability. “The profession to be a fine artist has responsibility, you can’t cheat the art. I can’t create something and go “oh I’ll keep it for myself”, it doesn’t belong to me. It took a lot to create that. It takes inspiration from people, so people have to be able to experience it.”.
In terms of the methodology behind his work, Inxsanixty’s work is based on three principles; teach the viewer about themselves, teach the viewer about him and his heritage and lastly, push the viewer’s creativity, and we see these principles in Mirror.
When I first saw this piece, I thought it was about a couple who were trying to resolve their problems, but I was correct and wrong. Inxsanixty told me my response was correct due to it coming from my emotions but wrong due to others having a different response. For example, some thought it was about a confrontation between a man and a woman. Others thought the woman was looking to the man for reassurance. While others thought the woman was annoyed at the man for ignoring her feelings, and alternatively, others thought it was the opposite. Regardless, all our responses were valid because they are based on our emotions. Inxsanixty also stated that by having this piece be so vague, anybody could have a given opinion and after a day it could completely change.
But most importantly, the power of this piece comes from how it was created. Looking at the piece, there are no eyes. Eyes are powerful because they tell a story. Our body language is a crucial feature of how we communicate. If we remove a single feature, like the eyes, it becomes difficult for our brains to piece everything together and thus different interpretations are born. Moreover, what also prevents us from being distracted is the background, it is black and as a result, we are forced to focus on the two figures.
Even though the piece is ambiguous in its meaning, we know a conversation is occurring. The piece combines art and psychology, and that is at the forefront of Inxsanixty’s work. He wants you to look at pieces such as this and ask yourself, why do I feel this way?
Mirror (painted 2017) [Oil on Canvas 76 x 102cm]
One of Inxsanixty’s favourite pieces is Fulani Woman and it is a mixed media piece, parts of the piece were digitally printed, and other parts were painted.
With regards to Fulani Woman, Inxsanixty wanted this piece to have a blur effect. As the viewer moves away from the piece, the image of the woman becomes sharper.
Just like Dan’Gida, this piece also incorporates Linear Perspective. Linear Perspective was first discovered by the 14th century Italian architect, Filippo Brunellesco. The technique involves the use of a single point as the focus.
When it comes to linear perspective, all the lines go to a common point and create an impression of depth and distance. With the addition of light and shadows, this optical illusion is created. Linear Perspective is used in both landscape and figurative pieces. As a result, you have this effect of the eyes following you wherever you go.
In any linear perspective piece, the light, shadow and perspective must be fixed. As well as that, the effect can only be experienced from 2D pieces. From a 3D perspective, those three elements change, and no effect appears. Since the discovery of this, it has appeared in countless pieces such as the Mona Lisa.
In comparison to Mirror, the eyes are present and Inxsanixty uses them to symbolise the woman’s power. The eyes give the piece a much bigger presence. As well as that, the piece allows the viewer to think and ask certain questions such as, why is she looking at me? What is she wearing? The piece aims to push your “creative IQ”, and create an educational environment. “This is for you to learn about you, and before I go this is for everybody.”.
Fulani Woman (painted 2016) [Oil on Canvas 60 x 60cm]
When it comes to Peckham, the artist adores his hometown, “I’m probably Nigerian before I am British, but I am from Peckham and London before I am from anywhere.”. This unconditional love can be seen in the piece Culture Not for Sale (painted 2019). Culture Not for Sale is from a series called “not for sale”. The pieces in the series have the phrase, “not for sale” written on them.
Culture Not for Sale delves into the different regions of Peckham. If we focus on the bottom left corner, we see a black block, this represents the negative region of what Peckham use to be. Moving to the top left corner is a brown block, this represents the new and regenerated area. What is interesting about this piece is that these two regions are close to each other. Furthermore, what connects these two regions are a series of vibrant colours. Inxsanixty states that these colours represent the various cultures seen in Peckham. In the piece, the colours coalesce, and this is a representation of the various cultures in Peckham fusing to form Peckham’s own culture.
Inxsanixty made it very clear to me that Peckham is a place where people can express their culture without being judged. There is diversity across the Boroughs of London, but Peckham is that one place that takes the very meaning of “diversity” to another level. “Nigerians, Afghanistan and Chinese. They are all highlighted in Peckham. Growing up in the area you know one or two words.”.
It is pieces such as Culture Not for Sale that Inxsanixty uses to inform his audience of the development of Peckham, and how it is different from what is portrayed by the media. Inxsanixty sees the area as a place that people should be proud of and he eloquently states, “I wear it with pride. (…). It is home of the greats for me. In Peckham, everybody knows everybody, from Giggs to whoever.”.
Culture Not for Sale (painted 2019) [Oil on Canvas 102 x 102cm]
In terms of Inxsanixty’s favourite artists. His selection came down to six artists or as he describes, a 5 a side team with an honourable sub. They are Leonardo Da Vinci, Jean Michel Basquiat, Pablo Picasso, Yinka Shonibare, Brian Donnelly and Anselm Kiefer.
When it comes to Da Vinci, Inxsanixty adores the late artist due to his understanding of art and science, and how he made the two seamlessly intertwine with each other.
For Basquiat, Inxsanixty loves the late artist due to his childlike nature and how intricate his work was, “I love how it took people so long to understand that he was talking about them.”. This coupled with the artist’s determination to succeed also makes Inxsanixty admire the artist. “If I was pushed that way, I would pick the art over comfort.”.
With regards to Picasso, Inxsanixty admires the late artist’s impact on Abstract art. When it comes to benchmarks, Inxsanixty states that if he surpasses Picasso in terms of the number of paintings, he would be happy.
In terms of Yinka Shonibare, Inxsanixty is a massive fan of the artist’s piece, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, which was placed on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Whenever Inxsanixty passes the bottle it always creates a conversation within his head. To add to that Shonibare has links to the fashion industry, and apart from art Inxsanixty is a massive fan of the fashion industry. In our interview, Inxsanixty said this about the artist, “I have a massive amount of respect for Yinka Shonibare, knowing what he needs to do and what he doesn’t need to do. Knowing he doesn’t need to make it that deep to convey that serious and important message. Highlighting and reflecting different things through sculpture in a way that has not been seen before.”.
With regards to Brian Donnelly (or KAWS), Inxsanixty sees the artist as someone who perfected the work of the late artist Keith Haring. As well as that, he appreciates the artist’s influence on sneakers culture.
Lastly, the honourable sub which is the German artist Anselm Kiefer. Inxsanixty applauds the artist due to his bravery for delving into Nazi Germany within his work. “He took those things from that period and created art.”.
In terms of Inxsanixty’s overarching message, the artist wants to tell viewers the following, “There are no art people, everybody can understand this, there is no special level of intellect you need to get to understand this”. Inxsanixty wants to break that narrative, he wants people to experience art and understand themselves through it. He wants to be this generation’s entry point to the artistic world. “My market was never the art world, my market was the guys like me, who never really considered themselves art people.”.
In terms of what is next for the artist. Well if our current situation changes then as of the release of this memoir. Inxsanixty plans to have a solo exhibition this June and July, the exhibitions are of extra importance to the artist as they honour him painting for 5 years. Furthermore, in July and September, he has a group show. Inxsanixty also plans to do an exhibition for the African Centre which is in Southwark. The exhibition aims to bring other upcoming artists. With regards to fashion, his other passion. He plans on doing more work within the industry; this year he wants to focus more on fashion than art.
All in all, Inxsanixty is an artist who is proud of his hometown, he knows Peckham’s past, but he knows its potential and wants to play a part in it.
When it comes to art, it is evident that he is passionate about it, he sees art as something innately human, an essential part of our lives. As he articulates, “Art is the only thing that doesn’t need permission to have residence in your head”. He is an individual who is constantly pushing the limits of his artistic boundaries from digital painting to creating art from recycled goods.
The artist enjoys the hustle and hard work that comes with the title. “I’ve chosen to take the stairs as oppose to the lift with the art world.”, and it is through art that he has discovered his true self, “I understand myself through art, and I understand the world through art”. Whatever he sets his mind to, Inxsanixty ensures he finds the right criteria and gets the job done.