Maciver, Lakwena - VM - Jonathan Evens
Lakwena Maciver: Imagine Eternity
Rainbow Colours of Hope
by Jonathan Evens
‘Imagine Eternity’, ‘Looking For A Brighter Day’, ‘Nothing Can Separate Us’, ‘Ever After’, ‘I Remember Paradise’, ‘Just Passing Through’, ‘The Future’s Gold’, ‘Still I Rise’, ‘Raise Your Hopes’, ‘Your Love Keeps Lifting me Higher’, ‘The Highest Love’, ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’. Lakwena Maciver’s artistic practice involves distilling ideas and encapsulating them in a single evocative phrase surrounded by kaleidoscopic patterns and bold colours. Her phrases are painted prayers and meditations, her adornments are signifiers assigning value and glory, her content is future oriented, looking for a future that is “higher, deeper, fuller, sweeter, older, newer, bolder, brighter and more glorious.”
The story of her art began with an invitation to paint a mural for a church in Brazil. She chose a verse from the Bible – “You've turned my wailing into dancing, You’ve taken away my clothes of sadness and clothed me with joy” – painted it on a wall in Portuguese and created patterns around it. It was all very instinctive, but the style and content of her work were essentially formed through that project.
The Bible is key for her; she reads it regularly, describes it as her food, and meditates on its words of truth and encouragement. Her creativity begins with prayer, music, meditation, writing and she then paints from that place.
She says that all her work “is really one whole body of work that leads on from one piece to another.” It began with the book ‘Echoes of Eden’, which talks about the ‘idea of paradise’ and ‘how it pops up in a lot of cultures’. All her work has flowed, therefore, from the idea of heaven; it’s about the future and our yearning and longing for paradise.
Ever After, a mural in downtown Las Vegas created for the street art festival scene opening up there, has that eternity describing phrase in block letters and rainbow colours set on a future-oriented tyre track vector graphic surrounded by connecting curves of colour. Imagine Eternity is a work from the I Remember Paradise exhibition at the Papillion Gallery which followed the creation of murals in Miami and Las Vegas. Imagine Eternity floats the dream of Paradise over a kaleidoscope which is surrounded again by colour curves topped and tailed with a graphic of a long and winding road. The kaleidoscope draws the eye to a central eternal entry point.
She sees God in the colours of heaven – “fluorescent pink and gold and glitter and all of those neon textures” – making her work a very contemporary expression of worship and thanks and praise. She quotes Calvin Seerveld, emeritus professor of philosophical aesthetics, who said it is important to “fire your art until it emits sparks that warm or burn those it reaches.” The challenge and comfort of her work is in its positivity with rainbow colours of hope and the energy of its patterns and textures.
Lakwena says she sees her work and responsibility as an artist in the terms articulated by Seerveld. As such, the future orientation of her work is a lot deeper than just positivity; just saying things are good or are going to get better. Ultimately, this is work that is rooted both in an Afro-futuristic aesthetic and a Messianic ideology, the idea that there is a Saviour and a kingdom yet to come. As a result, there is a future that is bigger than the past, the vision of which enables us to live God’s future now.
Lakwena Maciver: Imagine Eternity, 2014, 6ft x 4ft, acrylic on MDF board with laser cut wood block letters.
Lakwena Maciver: Ever After, mural, 209 North 7th Street in Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Lakwena Maciver was born in 1986 to an English mother and a Ugandan father. She studied graphic design at the London College of Communications (UK), graduating in 2009. She had her first exhibition in London that same year. London continues to be her home city. Her kaleidoscopic work is informed by the use of decoration as a means of communication. As a form of expression within a political world, Lakwena explores how the use of adornment in worship and mythmaking translates into contemporary popular culture. Central to her practice are words, used as both images and anchors of meaning, borrowing from the techniques and conventions of traditional sign-writing and contemporary graphic design. With an aesthetic that draws upon her formative years in Addis Ababa, Nairobi and her native London she creates bold messages of hope in urban settings with bright murals that can be found on walls from Vienna to New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami to Borås, Sweden with one of the finest collections of world-class murals on the planet. https://www.lakwena.com
Jonathan Evens is Associate Vicar for HeartEdge at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, UK. Through HeartEdge, a network of churches, he encourages congregations to engage with culture, compassion and commerce. He is co-author of ‘The Secret Chord,’ an impassioned study of the role of music in cultural life written through the prism of Christian belief. He writes regularly on the Arts for a range of publications and blogs at https://joninbetween.blogspot.com.
ArtWay Visual Meditation 6 December 2020