Everyone Deserves Flowers XII

Solomon Osinloye
4 min readJan 3, 2024

A year after I said it, I became it — a collector. Maybe ‘collector’ is a bit of a stretch, considering this is only my first piece. (I’ll be comfortable wearing that hat when I collect a second.)

Anyhoo, I sat with Afeez Onakoya, the first artist in my portfolio, talking about… stuff. Then it hit me, paintings usually have meanings or tell stories. ‘What does it mean?’ I asked. He responded so honestly and at that moment, I decided to write about every piece I welcome into my collection, pretty much exploring the depth of meaning behind the artworks, and the artist’s intentions, connecting personal experiences and observations to the broader themes depicted in the works.

“If words were enough, we wouldn’t need art”

I came across Afeez’s work about 4 years ago, they were pencil drawings from life studies, and I thought they were brilliant. His stroke movements were with so much freedom one could say, he is very well grounded in the fundamentals. The next time I came across his work, I had no idea it was the same person because this time they were nothing like what I had seen a few years before, they had colours–they were paintings. I was particularly drawn to the fine dither-like gradation, I enjoyed the grainy chiaroscuro effects; the pop of colour that the backgrounds were, the exaggerated proportions of the human forms in cases where the full body is visible, the elongation of the limbs and the interesting movement of the phalanges. Sometimes the figures look human, other times they just look ethereal or alienesque. I like that the figures are rendered in black and white and the colours come on in the backgrounds, their hair, their clothing and the flowers that are consistent across the entire series.

If you are reading this, consider yourself lucky because you are lucky (I have no expectation that this would get a lot of read, so I’m glad you’re reading it), back to the question.

What does it mean?

Everyone Deserves Flowers XII | Charcoal and acrylic on canvas | 2023 | 24 x 24in

Face sideways, the gaze fixates on the bottom-left corner, as though peering down at an impending prey with a predatory intensity and empty eyes. The lips seem to have been captured in a moment of transition from the firmness of a stern expression and the subtle beginnings of a smirk.

“This painting is a response to the deaths that happened at the time, they were young people.”, his response made sense because I thought the eyes of the figure in the painting were cold, emotion-less and the smile on her face doesn’t look like she is here for fun business. “That’s not a woman!” Afeez interjects. The length of the brow and that hairstyle make it easy to mistake him for a woman. He explained how isolated experiences come together to make an Afeez piece (Hmm, Afiz Piz rolls off the tongue nicely).

One of the isolated experiences that he referenced in this piece as a metaphor for wickedness was the black thread hairstyle popular with Deeper Life Women.

Etsy | Photo (GIF): @NeecMontage / Courtesy of Busayo Olupona | J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

They have very defined standards in how they dress and how they move. There is this very obvious discipline in the way they engage with the world, their no-nonsense approach is often misconstrued as being anti-social and wicked.

Afeez draws on this detail from their style as a visual metaphor for the wickedness of death in its lack of regard for age, it just takes, actually not. According to Afeez, it comes with a present that the recipient can’t receive — Flowers.

“You know how people get more flowers when they are not able to smell them? That’s one unpleasant present that death brings”. A portion of the painting showcases a simple arrangement of dark purple flowers with yellow and white-ish petals on an exciting bright orange background –as you would expect with a pleasant gift box, carefully painted with thick layers of pigment in a way that it stands out from the surface, creating a visually striking contrast with the rest of the piece.

Afeez and I bonded over the words of American abstract expressionist painter, Adolph Gottlieb. “If words were enough, we wouldn’t need art”

Ultimately, this artistic endeavour is not just about acquiring pieces, it’s an immersion into the stories they tell. Art beckons us to explore, question, and connect. Collecting art is to document the world we live in through the crystallized emotions of the artist as they live in our times, capturing the period’s zeitgeist. As you contemplate this artistic narrative, you become a fellow traveller, navigating unique perspectives of life, the artist’s interpretations of the world around them through the strokes of brushes, the coil of clay and the infinite medium art materialises.