I make my way to the Eko Atlantic, the new coastal city in Lagos state, for Irvin Pascal's solo exhibition 'THE NENAISSANCE' on March 14, 2019.

Here, I meet the visual artist, who is dressed in all black. He makes his debut in Nigeria, after showcasing his work in several galleries in England, Germany and the U.S.

He looks right at home as he shows off his amazing pieces in a room that smelled strongly of paint. According to Nkechi Cryan, the art consultant who facilitated the exhibition, they are being sold for N500, 000 to over N5 million. 

Despite growing up in the United Kingdom, he insists that he really identifies with his roots and African art. This explains why the artist, who is one of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries for 2017, chose to do this solo exhibition here.

He tells Pulse: "I always knew that I was a part of the culture because you know, from a young age I was always around African art, my Mum and Dad used to bring African art back from Nigerian but it was more of an everyday thing you know, you can access art everywhere. Even looking on Instagram, it's easy to see how the art world in Nigeria is developing and it piqued my interest. It was the right time.''

His representative and consultant, Cryan, further explains why this is the ideal choice for this exhibition.

''I think in the last few years, I have been observing how the Lagos art market has grown significantly. There are good auctions, amazing art fairs, lots of new galleries popping up. I think that Lagos is well on the way to being, in fact, it's a player already.

Nigerians are just so talented whether it's music or art and I think it's about having the right ecosystem and having people who are pushing and working hard to make things happen. The more people who are involved and passionate, it's only going to get better.''

How it all started

Pascal's love for art started at a really young age. In his words, "I did start off as an artist, I've been an artist since I was 5 years old. I did my own work outside of school and I've kept my sketchbooks from when I was a child, and I just kind of developed my own painting style.''

His desire to create led him to study architecture. After school, he took an unexpected detour into the world of boxing, where he went from being an amateur to a professional boxer. 

"I went to university I studied architecture. From there, I started boxing to keep fit and then it developed into an actual career. I turned professional but before then, I was an amateur boxer and I trained with the likes of people like Chris Eubank Jr so it was a great experience," he revealed. 

Art by Artist Irvin Pascal 'Self Portrait as the Greatest, after channeling Basquiat' [Credit: www.irvinpascal.com]

Boxing leads right back to art

His boxing career was cut short by a shoulder injury which eventually led him back to the art world. "When that [boxing] ended, I rediscovered my passion for painting and I went on to do my Master in 2015 in Fine Arts at the University of Brighton.''

Now, his boxing is influencing how he creates. He tells Business Insider SSA by Pulse exactly how boxing is helping his art. "As a fighter, I would run a minimum of three miles every couple of days and every week. It requires a lot of discipline which I have taken over to muy art. It helps me stay in that mindset of repetition."

Pascal's art is arresting as it features the use of pieces cut out of random things including shopping bags from luxury British retailer, Selfridges. He explains what it represents saying, ''My work has layers to it. On one level, it's about creating a marriage between fashion and art and also talking about my own personal history and memories of my Mum and her friends who would enjoy going out sometimes to buy things from Selfridges and it was a nice event for them. It became a part of their culture. In another sense, the bags represent recycling and the idea of mass consumerism.'' 

The business of art

A brief chat with Cryan, Pascal's art consultant and founder of the Niki Cryan art consultancy reveals how much his art goes for - N500,000 to over N3 million.

She also explains how the price for each artwork is determined. "So, because Irvin is already involved in the global art market, there's been a gradual pricing of his work at different stages and sizes. He works with immaculate material, everything is very well crafted, and lots of time go into and you have to factor in his time, the sizes and art is a commodity at the end of the day."

Cryan closes with brief advice to young artists who want to make more money from their art. She asks, "How are you developing as an artist and your work, the quality, even the material you are using, where are you going?"

"That's how your prices increase and you, as an artist, develop in value if you get shown in museums if you do more references. That's how you become more valuable," she concludes.