Richard Ayodeji Ikhide on education, icons and visual identity

All clothing & footwear Onitsuka Tiger Fall/Winter 2021 Collection

The London-based textile designer turned fine artist took a trip to his studio with Onitsuka Tiger to walk us through his love of mythology, artefacts and Japanese illustration.

To celebrate the launch of Onitsuka Tiger’s expansive, marble-laden new store in London, we hit up two of the country’s emerging artists who know a thing or three about innovation. Here, we journeyed to Mayfair to meet with draftsman and mythological painter, Richard Ayodeji Ikhide to ask: what is the power of creativity?

As the world reopens its doors, so begins the flurry of enthused shoppers flinging off their dressing gowns in favour of a slick new look. Fortunately, Japanese fashion label Onitsuka Tiger has just opened a brand spanking new flagship store on London’s Regent’s Street.

Not only is the near 10,000 square foot, two-floor space located on one of the world’s most prestigious shopping streets, but it’s the first location to offer the entire Onitsuka Tiger lineup in a single establishment, from the contemporary and heritage collections to the NIPPON MADE series rich in craftsmanship, as well as the luxury THE ONITSUKA line.

Onitsuka Tiger is also opening its doors to the eclectic crew that makes up London’s creative scene – they have big plans for the gallery space that’s located in the store’s basement that’s soon to be teeming with local and global artists exhibiting their work.

One talent the brand have their beady eye on is Central Saint Martins graduate, Richard Ayodeji Ikhide. When the 29-year-old isn’t in his Conduit Street studio creating vivid, hyperreal portraits, he’s teaching World Imagery at the Royal Drawing School. Having recently finished a residency at VO Curations – who promote diverse voices within the arts – the painter is gearing up for his next cosmic” solo exhibition at Steve Turner gallery in LA this summer.

We went to Ikhide’s bright Mayfair studio in the heart of London, with a haul of Onitsuka Tiger’s Autumn & Winter 2021 collection, to see him in action.

All clothing & footwear Onitsuka Tiger Fall/Winter 2021 Collection

Hi Richard! Tell us about your path to becoming an artist…

Where do I start? I mean, I moved to England when I was 14 from Lagos. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, pretty much. I used to draw on the walls in my grandparents’ house in Lagos, getting in trouble. In school, I was really into art. It was funny because I didn’t find out I was dyslexic until I was 21 and at CSM, but through school, art was like my safe haven. I’d bunk classes and just go and spend time in the art department. I’d get in trouble but my dad would be like, Well, at least you’re good at something!’ I’d come home with A’s in art but fail everything else.

But you initially pursued a career in textiles. What made you switch over to fine art?

For three years I studied textiles at CSM and I was making repeat prints, which were like massive tapestries because I got a sponsorship from a cloth worker’s foundation. They gave me loads of four-metre length linen fabric to print on. And then obviously after I graduated, making that kind of work wasn’t sustainable.

So I was working in retail warehouses, anything. And then I found out about the Royal Drawing School in 2017 while I was working in an art store. I picked up one of their brochures and that was my transitionary period into becoming a fine artist.

Are you part of an art collective?

No, no. I’m not a part of anything. Not represented by anyone. Just DIY, on my jack jones, doing my thing, doing shows. I’m not in a rush to get representation. I’m a baby. I only graduated three years ago, so things are still fresh.

So, what themes influence your work?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I was always interested in the ancient world. But then what’s interesting to me, getting older and moving to Europe, you go into somewhere like the British Museum and you see kind of all these different ancient artefacts. And for me, it was finding the connections between these things. I’m intrigued by the commonality between cultures through things like mythology or the kinds of artworks we’re producing.

And when I lived in Nigeria, my grandma or aunties were the matriarchs of my family. So there’s this idea of a matriarch that also comes into my work.

Give us your top tips for mastering the art world.

Research, research, work, work, work, work, work. Art is so romanticised because people think you just go into the studio and stuff happens. But, I’ve got tabs open on my computer. I have hundreds of images archived on my Pinterest board, like a couple of books on my shelves that I have open and it’s a case of bringing all these things together to coalesce into an image. It’s important to me that I contextualise the work and make sure what I’m doing is valid. I’m not just making art for art’s sake.

All clothing & footwear Onitsuka Tiger Fall/Winter 2021 Collection

Can you list some of your creative icons?

There are just too many people to name! People like Kerry James Marshall who I really like because he talks about image-making as a set of problems you’re solving. Jean Giraud (Moebius) is a French illustrator who I think is another great artist and someone like Yoshitaka Amano. He’s a Japanese artist, but he does a lot of concept art for Final Fantasy games. Katsuya Terada is another Japanese illustrator who I think is amazing because he straddles that line between fine art and manga. So it’s a really interesting dynamic. Coming from textiles into fine art there’s a wide range of interests.

What gets you in the zone?

I listen to music a lot of the time. Depending on my mood some days I listen to loads of punk bands like Black Flag, Bad Brains, and then some days it might be like Lil Yachty or Kendrick [Lamar]. I read a really good book by Steven Pressfield called The War of Art and it’s just about procrastination and how to not think, just do. I’ve got like four paintings on the go in the studio and then five small drawings. It keeps your brain active as well because I think working on a singular thing can become a bit dull.

How has your creativity been impacted in the last 18 months?

I’m introverted, so for me, the pandemic was amazing. I didn’t have to see anyone, I could do my work! But in all seriousness, when it first hit I lost a lot of freelance teaching so it was difficult in terms of making an income. I brought all my stuff home and created from there and then luckily I found out about a residency at VO Curations, where I had my solo show at the beginning of the year. It was a blessing in a way because it gave me more time and the opportunity to really scale up my work. It also enabled me to take certain risks that I might not have taken if I was busier.

What do you love about being a young contemporary artist?

Coming from a place like Nigeria, then to move to England and being a young Black male, who’s on the academic board of the Royal Drawing School is a very interesting perspective because I’m in spaces that maybe 10 years ago you wouldn’t have seen me in. I think being a young contemporary artist you can instil change. Not that I’m trying to revolutionise the world, I’m not Malcolm X, but you can just engender certain things that can build those small steps.

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