(b.1993) in Nassau, Bahamas
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY
after “Toil & Trouble”
bent at boil at burnish
then fixed futures or slid and slip past
and three is a cadence
a cavity leant
when hum beckons
so verdant follows
The figures in the pieces in Shanique Emelife’s The Village are never truly alone. Even when there is but a single human figure in one of these works, there is an awareness of how kin extends ever-outward to include the extolled and sheltering fauna, the muted blue sky, and the dusky brown soil. The village is capacious enough to account for all this life and more. In “Rocks & Soil,” a figure sits in the soil— a sizable plant flanking each of his sides. There is nothing lonely or alone. The presence of the plants is as potent as the presence of the figure.
In these works, the villagers often move in groups and they are among one another— there is a reflexive entanglement, a reverb and an acknowledgement that the village is not a mute and static object but that it comes alive in the intimacy that we let in. Proximal distance collapses in Emelife’s work and hands, legs and shoulders brush past one another and let closeness linger. The bent knees of two crouched spectres meet and touch. And, too, figures obscure one another, but that is also okay. The ‘I’ is not the radiant exercise, the village is instead foregrounded.
“Belonging” and “Hiding spot” remind us of the continual act. The gerund grammar shows a state that is not static or finished but one that is alive and fervent. All acts are threaded— what each villager does in toil, with kin and in the neighborhood is looped into the belonging. This goes for both the living kin and the spirit kin.
Rich living greens bear witness to the village and are the village in Emelife’s work. All these pieces are set in the outdoors, which points to where the center of the neighborhood rests. There is a deep and abiding serenity in these paintings. There is toil and work, too, but the tenderness of being together softens the toil. An insistent and/with lives in these paintings, which is ultimately another way to say ‘village’. - Text by Asiya Wadud
Shanique Emelife otherwise known as “Chy," is a queer Nigerian immigrant and self-taught painter. Her work often centers on a first-generation immigrant experience and tends to explore family, culture, identity, and home.
2016: BA Sociology, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
2021 - 2022: The Village, Fortnight Institute, NYC
2023: The Figurative Impulse: Return the Gaze, H&R Block Artspace at Kansas City Art Institute, February 8th to March 23
2022: When the Sun Loses Its Light, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, CA
2022: Small Paintings, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, NY
2021: Nine Lives, Fortnight Institute, New York, NY
PRIZES, AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
2022: Next Step Fund Grant Recipient, Metro Regional Arts Council
Shanique Emelife, The Village | The Guide ArtBryan Martin, The Guide Art, January 3, 2022
Elephant’s Pick of December’s Essential Artists | Shanique EmelifeEmily Steer, Elephant Magazine, December 27, 2021
THIS SUMMER, NEW YORK ART IS MAGIC, MYSTIC AND UNCANNYAnnie Armstrong, Cultured, August 12, 2021
Nine LivesJohanna Fateman, The New Yorker, August 9, 2021
Shanique EmelifeThe Village 9 Dec 2021 - 9 Jan 2022after “Toil & Trouble” bent at boil at burnish at boil then fixed futures or slid and slip past and three is a cadence a cavity leant when hum beckons...Read more
Nine Lives22 Jul - 21 Aug 2021Nine Lives is a group exhibition that looks to examine the perennial motif of cats within art. Across generations and cultures, felines have been used as a vehicle for symbolism,...Read more
2022: New American Paintings - Juried Exhibition In Print, No.161, Midwest Issue.