Kelvin Okafor: Interlude at Albermarle Gallery, London

An Interlude is described as a short moment or an interval of events like musical performances or the acts of a play. In this new series of portrait drawings I explore the short breaks to moments of reflection and solitude, capturing the quiet essence of inner peace and stillness that radiates from the subjects.

I have always been fascinated with closed-eyed expressions, the sense of quietude that they highlight as well as the mysterious character that they bestow to the sitter. As a child I often used to question the reasons why we close our eyes while performing certain activities such as dreaming, visualising, praying or meditating. The possibility of seeing vivid images whilst our eyes were sealed shut completely enthralled me and made me wonder whether others could have had the same experience. After sharing my thoughts with friends and family, it forever inspired me to know that they too had similar experiences with their own projected imagery. At that very moment I remember feeling as though every human being had the capacity to create and enter their own unique inner worlds that no other being had access to but their mind’s eye. Through time, despite understanding some of the logical explanations as to why we close our eyes at particular moments, I still felt inclined to imagine otherwise. Mystery is what has always inspired me and is what eventually led me to create this series of portraits.

As an artist I believe that it is highly important to focus on one’s inner world. Being a sensitive individual, I have always felt prone to being easily distracted and sometimes influenced by family, friends and the media. However I now realise that over the years, by drawing for up to 12 hours a day, I was subconsciously seeking solitude – away from the disturbing outer world – and the freedom to gather my own thoughts and form the courage to embark on a pursuit that I passionately enjoyed. With sensitivity still being a big part of my personality, this voluntary solitude helped me to develop discipline and strength as well as acquire a greater degree of inner peace.

Relationship with sitters
In order to capture the sitters’ Interlude it was of utmost importance that they were in an environment they felt comfortable in. Whether taking photos or making sketches of the models at their favourite park or visiting their own personal space, I found that by being in a comfortable and familiar setting it was easier for the models to channel those feelings of calm, tranquillity and stillness that were then translated on paper. The resulting gestures and expressions that one can see in this collection are my interpretation of their inner harmony as well as the beauty of their solitude.