Updated: Jun 18, 2021
Yemi Alade is a London based artist and creative director working in film and photography. She works on commercial projects with companies such as Calvin Klein, including the recent Eternity campaign. Alade also produces her own work around feelings and mental health, such as her 2020 Self Portrait series.
Laura: 14th of May 2021. Tonight we're going to be speaking with Yemi Alade; Artist and Creative Director. My first question is how did you become an artist, what's your background?
Yemi: I had the intention of becoming something else like a doctor, that was my first career path. Then I kind of switched when I was 10 -11 years old. I realised that art is what I am drawn to naturally.
Laura: Did you had an epiphany or something, or you just knew that the doctor route wasn’t quite right?
Yemi: I think my older brother, I'm going to give him credit for it because he was insistent on knowing what you want to do from earlier on, he was like ‘Yemi, you need to take some time out, write a journal, maybe go for walks every day’. It was kind of like a routine, just like spending time alone and reflecting to see what I was drawn to, so I think once I did that, I very quickly realised. It was a kind of epiphany but it was also something I actively pursued, figuring out what I wanted to do.
Laura: Apparently being organised and having your goals in place is the best plan of action, so you did the right thing.
Yemi: Yes. My main focus at the moment is photography but in regards to my art, I create 3D sculpture in different media, I didn't have to stick to one medium and I think the only consistent thing is the way of thinking. I do like to explore the idea of interactive art, and I also love to explore really big ideas, like life and death and the contrast between dark and light. I'm quite inquisitive I think that leads me to create things that often look different.
Laura: Do you have a particular artist that inspires you at all?
Yemi: Ooh! There are so many different kinds of artists but I'd say within sculpture, Damien Hirst. And Anthony Gormley.
Laura: What about current projects? What are you working on at the moment? Have you found the lockdown useful to be productive creatively?
Yemi: For me the lockdown was so useful; such as going for a walk, some reflecting and journaling, I think like I had all the time in the world to do that so I think lockdown helped me to get back into that practice. I think lockdown allowed me to get like back into that way of being and just really looking inwards so it helped me to like re-centre and also question my intentions with my art; question why I do it and what I'm doing it for.
Laura: I've seen the lockdown is still of help to some extent for an artist because there hasn't been a lot of noise, you know parties, fun stuff. So having that quiet time for reflection, as you mentioned. We do have a question, it is, what is your favourite project you have created so far?
Yemi: My favourite project I've created so far, I will say it's my short -film, my first ever. I made it two summers ago, and I think the reason why it's my favourite project even though I never actually released it officially. I explored ideas of depression and isolation before, but isolation was like a buzz word. And I just wanted to explore mental health and how that affects me, and other people.
Laura: Isolation can mean different things to different people. Tell us a story from the highlight in your career, it could be any nice story you want to share, or a highlight?
Yemi: I would say a highlight so far has been deciding to go completely full-time with this, because I was always doing a balancing act, of working a part-time job as well as my creative direction of photography. I felt like I was only working 20% on my creative projects. So once I fully decided, last month I actually, I think I've seen a massive shift in my work.
Laura: The amount of time any job takes up and the energy required, detracts from making art. Where do you want to be in 5 years with your work?
Yemi: I want to have an exhibition for my art and my photography work. I think in 5 years, I want to be an established artist, and to build up my reputation.
Laura: Have you got gallery representation at the moment Yemi?
Yemi: No! I don’t, but I hope to have it very soon.
Laura: Sounds like you're on the right path, from what you said. And of course, you don't have to have gallery representation, there are also a lot of channels now, YouTube is very important and of course Instagram. You can have social media running and at the same time be represented by a gallery as well.
Yemi: Exactly! Currently, I am working on a few fashion films, I feel like fashion film is where I stand, because it gives you so much space to push the boundaries. I think that experimental film is amazing at communicating certain ideas or maybe having more of an avant-garde or abstract approach to film. The only thing I noticed about experimental film is that it doesn't always get you the representation you want. I’ve been in contact with a few producers and directors, asking them the best way to kind of get my foot firmly in the door.
Laura: Exciting! Are you collaborating with anyone to do those?
Yemi: Yes. There is a director called Tom Oliver. I'm going to be working on that project as a Creative Director, and the designer. Her name is Emilia, she is a Fashion Designer at CSM, that is where I studied and she makes beautiful work. Her work explores femininity, and she is trying to create a new language for how we view femininity. So that is going to be super excited to work with them, I am looking forward to it.
Laura: It is so lovely to have people come into your life and also your professional life to have inspired you. Tell me about Central Saint Martins (CSM), did you absorb a lot of information and generate ideas there?
Yemi: I did. I think being in a space where you have a lot of creative people really helps you to be creative. I think being in that kind of environment is such a catalyst for developing ideas. University is a great place, or specifically, CSM is a great place to be around that community, so I was always channeling out work constantly.
Laura: It is lovely to have that network where you studied and keep in touch with as friends but also as people you can draw upon, for professional advice. Do you have a platform where we can see your work?
Yemi: It's Yemi Oyato and all the platforms, @yemioyato on Instagram.
Laura: Oh! Yemi, it's been lovely to meet you, I hope to meet you in real life at some point as well.
Yemi: I had a lovely time, thank you for having me.