Alexis Eke is an illustrator and designer from Toronto, Ontario. The York University alumni recently teamed up with the Freeform network to create visuals to promote Grownish. I’m not surprised to hear the well-deserved news being that she has a hefty roster of past commissions such as Bloomberg and Foot Locker Toronto. The Toronto-based artist creates Renaissance-esque pieces inspired by her personal relationship with God. Her focus is to increase the representation of black women in design. One can also assume that she wants to see more black women traditionally defined in renaissance era fashion.
Eke has always viewed women as resilient and independent. With a strong Caribbean background, she grew up surrounded by women with powerful personalities. Looking at her work, her view of women clearly translates into her illustrations. She explains, “Most of the time in formal art spaces, Black women are brought in as moving parts, rarely entering these fields as a permanent feature. It’s discouraging to think that with large art institutions in Canada, a Black Canadian woman has never had a solo exhibition there.” Upon looking at her body of work, I hope she becomes one of the firsts to change that.
I’ve noticed that Eke has a knack for using parallel white lines in her pieces. I see them consistently, illuminating down women’s faces. From their eyes and a slight curve towards their lips, Alexia Eke spills the why on her website:
“The white lines connect from the eyes to the mouth to represent what we see, influencing how we express ourselves and treat others. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light (Matthew 6:22). This is a reminder for myself that healthy eyes are eyes that are fixed on God. When my eyes are set on Jesus, because He is the light of this world, I can see everything else clearly. As a result, the way I express myself will also (with time) reflect Christ.”
Simplicity is key to Alexis Eke’s work. Refined lines, sharp shapes, and warm palettes. Various neutral tones, as if to reveal a deeper meaning.
1. Iron Enters Breezily with Smooth Lines and Warm Tones
Simplicity and elegance oozes out of this piece. With fine and smooth lines, Eke invokes sweet intimacy within friends. On the woman’s sleeve to the right, it reads, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” which is actually within the Bible in John 15:13 (NIV). If you scan the illustration, you’ll notice small white figures attempting to climb and explore the women’s garments. Once again, utilizing the color white. I interpret the figures as distractions between the two friends. Neither of them is looking at the tiny figures. Their eyes focused ahead—on God, I presume, based on the sharp white lines down their faces. The opulent shades of brown were inviting. Women from my family, women I adore, can be seen in this piece. Representation is imperative, and it’s heartwarming to see black women portrayed in such an eloquent and sacred way. It’s delicate yet sturdy— grounded. The sharp facial features and their entire being dramatically outshining the rest of the pieces. Halos, clouds, green fields, and mountains take a back seat to the divine friendship before us. It’s my favorite piece from Eke because the more I observe her Iron, the more I discover. The subtle details are vast. What details did you discover upon looking at Iron?
In All Things, Eke Affirms that We Can Overcome Anything
The tiny figures are climbing and exploring our main focus once more, but her eyes are focused ahead. The thick flowing green line wrapping around her shoulders appears to be a snake. I’m wondering if this is Eve, although wrapped in temptation, will remain focused. It looks that way. White figures on her, an alluring green snake around her, and still her eyes are focused on God. The snake like-line is even wrapped under and around her fingers, almost as if she is in command of it. She can overcome temptation. Similar to Iron, the background fades and quietly blankets behind her. On her arm reads another scripture, Philippians 4:13 (KJV) I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me. It was the final thing I saw before choosing this as one of my top faves from Alexis Eke. For her, she can overcome anything through Christ. Wonderful message that bleeds from this piece.
3. Alexis Eke Gives Grownish Her Flavor
As in previous illustrations, the facial features are consistent and realistic. However, the style of this piece is both contemporary and retro. Although Eke’s signature white lines aren’t streaming down her face, you can still spot one of the small figures in the subject’s hair. In comparison to her other pieces, this one is more poppy and bright. This piece appeals to me because of the bright colors and gleaming tones. It stands in stark contrast to her other works.
Rise, Eke, Rise
Here at Neri, we hope she continues to rise so the world can see the beauty, talent, and effortless depth Alexis Eke holds.