How did your love affair with art begin?
Just like any other child growing up I had always loved scribbling, drawing from magazines and any material that I could lay my hands on, which could potentially improve my art. It was just pure fun, passion at work. I never thought of art as a career. I was lucky enough to have parents who have had some level of educational exposure and they saw the creative talent in me and sort of encouraged me to pursue it as a course of study. But again I needed to test the waters to see how serious their advice was. So I prepared a budget for materials to be used in this pursuit and tendered it to them. To my greatest amazement, it was well catered for. That automatically was a strong motivating factor.
I have held two solo exhibitions and participated in several group shows locally and internationally. My artistic prowess has earned me over 10 prizes/awards, ranging from Nigeria’s National Gallery of Art, embassies of Spain and Arab Republic of Egypt in Abuja, Life in My City Art Festival Enugu, African Arts Resource Centre Lagos, a special recognition from the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, amongst many others. I live and practice art full time in Abuja.
Why painting and not another genre?
I rather paint full time than indulge in other genres, because colors have a way of invoking certain emotions to viewers, even when there is no intent of imageries. And as a painter I think this is core. Research has shown that color plays a major role in our well being. I also resonate and connect more with color. That doesn’t make all other categories lesser art.
What has been your most misinterpreted work and why is it so?
The goal of my artistic creation has always been to communicate with the viewer, sometimes I spend time engaging with a viewer or an enthusiast at exhibitions, it amazes me that the ideas an artist tries to portray may differ from what the onlooker could decipher. Viewers have never misinterpreted my works, they simply give it meanings they like. And again, you know this is an emotional issue that transcends all laws of logic, so it is allowed. Everybody is allowed to read meanings into my work other than my intent. It’s simply symbolism at play.
How would you describe your style?
I employ linear qualities in the execution of my forms, reminiscent of the post impressionist artists.
Picasso or Van Gogh, who would you choose and why?
Well these are two art titans, and they are unique in their mannerism of expression. So, siding with one particular force won’t do justice to me. I like the deconstruction of forms by Picasso and of course the brush swirls of Van Gogh which both have been great sources of stylistic inspiration to me.
What is your favourite medium of expression?
This is hard to answer, most especially when you are imbued with this restless spirit of studio experimentation, always striving for something new. But somehow I tend to work with oils, more the reason being that, oils are very slow in drying so it gives you a window during which you can make corrections to faulty areas. And again for someone like me who is in love with textures, oil seems to be just right.
Tell us about your most precious art piece.
I truly don’t have a most precious piece, I’m always looking forward to a new piece that might keep me glued to it. But this feeling of the next painting might be the best, keeps evading me. So I would say that all my works are precious since they were products of anticipation of the next wow artworks to be.
What kind of collaboration do you think visual artists can have as musicians do?
It’s easy to say artists could come together and have joint exhibitions and make sales. Aside that artists need to come together, to encourage themselves and stop having this notion that their craft is for passion alone, they could see it as business too, which I don’t think is wrong. Where they can learn in this specialized skill of how to earn, managing and investing from their art proceeds I know this is hard when I know that artistic journey is always a solitary pursuit. Coming together to form a force could be a challenge. But it could be possible too.
In this regard is there anyone you look forward to working with?
I do not have a particular name of an artist I intend to collaborate with, but I look forward working with the older artists who have garnered more experience and who have shown some level of proficiency in studio practice too. I also hope to work with the younger artists so that I would be able to share my knowledge on the journey so far. The crux of this is to encourage exchange of artistic ideas.
Tell us about what color(s) you most enjoy working with.
I do not have a particular color which is of interest to me, that perhaps you see reoccurring in my paintings. Color in my paintings oscillates between being the subject itself and something used to invoke certain sensations. So there is no constant element for the usage of a particular color. All the colors are my favorites, depending on the idea I intend to express.
If I stepped into your studio, what would it say of you?
Well, my studio is my strong room where ideas are sometimes incubated; a glimpse into my studio would reveal me as a person, my creative processes. You would get to have a look at an x-ray view of the artist’s lifestyle, the struggles I get to encounter in producing each artwork, perhaps it would make or mar your appreciation for my art.
Your works have been described as feminist, is this true assessment?
I get to be asked this question frequently where in some instances I have been tagged as a womanizer. I love painting women, because I have developed special interest in their struggles.
Aside my profound love for painting women; I explore issues of emotion most times in my work. And in my thinking women are the best subjects that you can connect with emotions. And again I think they feel much more than their male counterparts.
Aside painting what else do you do?
When I’m not painting certainly you would see me on the street with my camera, where I use it as vehicle to explore the state of humanity. I love photography, but its astonishing to know that it requires the same degree of attention or skill as painting or any other form of art. I also love reading too.
What’s your take on the practice and patronage of street artists in Nigeria?
Okay, the street artists are not finding it easy just like their academic trained counterparts. They face a lot of challenges, from issues of being undervalued by their clienteles; probably just because they are on the streets, and most times not trained in the cubicle of a classroom. From the angle of the government, there’s no policy for integrating them in their so-called fantastic agenda of masterplans. So they often face harassment from agents of government as regards space for practice, in their bid to restore masterplans.
When you hold an exhibition, what’s your motive?
The process of artistic creation is complete when the artist is able to take his/her work out from the studio to the public. This for me is important, in the sense that one gets to have a feedback of what the viewer feels about my work.
I hope to meet new art enthusiasts, engage with them on my thematic expression for the particular exhibits and have a more human connection. And, of course, as a practicing artist who sustains himself solely from the proceeds of his practice, I look forward to making sales too, so that I would be able to carry on.