Self-taught Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley is a wizard when it comes to putting charcoal and graphite to paper. The artist creates hyperrealistic portraits at a scale just larger than life, spending hundreds of hours detailing his subjects’ skin, hair, and sweat so that the works are nearly indistinguishable from black and white photographs. The artist recently opened a solo exhibition of new drawings at Jonathan LeVine Projects in New Jersey titled Mirrors, which seeks to pull viewers in so that they can connect with and see themselves in the subjects.
From new takes on familiar works like in Negro Mona Lisa (below), to drawings with more surreal elements like Black Noise (above), the emotion that Stanley is able to depict in the faces and gestures is compelling even from a distance. Getting up close to one of his pieces adds to its weight, as the viewer’s brain tries to reconcile the amount of labor that went into each work.
In an artist statement on his website, Stanley explains that his art is “born out of the zeal for perfection both in skill, expression and devotion to create positive changes in the world.” In a press release for his current exhibition he tells Jonathan LeVine Projects that the process of drawing is “like energy transfer,” and that by transferring his energy through graphite, each blank piece of paper becomes art. Mirrors is on view through November 11 at the gallery’s space at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, New Jersey. You can see more of his portraits on Instagram.