In the spotlight: Chibuike Uzoma

Please introduce yourself to us

Up until I went to art school (2009 – 2013) I lived in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where I was born. I was introduced to art almost subconsciously as a child. Me and a few of my friends in the neighborhood didn’t have many toys as kids, so we had to make our own from recycled electronics and other found objects. We also did a lot of drawing but mostly on sandy ground which we had to erase before nightfall because we were falsely told that our pictures could come alive and haunt us in our dreams.

That creative process kick started everything I am doing today. Did I “decide” to become an artist? Honestly, I don’t know. I found solace in art as a child and ‘I’ll keep making art’ is what I decided and it’s been a fascinating life so far.

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Details of the painting “Kid”|2017

What do you want to express with your art

A real and honest experience is what I always want to show through my art. It’s not as if one aims to change the world or to be part of a revolutionary movement to champion it, however, if one could use art to lend a voice to people, to enlighten them and give them the possibility to dream and believe, that is a legitimate thing. Therefore, I try my best to use what is available to me and drive straight to the point. At no point am I trying to please anyone or conform to a theory or trend. What my art seeks in life is truth and simplicity without pretence.

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Staring Down a Sunset (Self Portrait)| 2017

When working on a new project, what are the first steps you take?

First, I acknowledge my true feelings towards the proposed project in my head. I have to love it or hate it. There should be a strong emotion attached to it and that feeling must be felt throughout the process, or else I might lose the momentum of the work.

However, talking about my process is a bit difficult because everything seems to happen very suddenly. I work organically so there is no defined pattern. From this organized chaos, an image immerges. So, I follow an art piece much like observing orange fruit turn yellow from green. You need to know when to stop the process of decay otherwise it will rot. There is always a lot of tension, monologues and headache as I, like my future audience, am also curious to see the final outcome of the work.

To begin this process, I sometimes paint my idea straight onto the canvas and make the changes as i go. Other times, I work from sketches, photographs, collages or with a live model. It depends on how I feel and what works best for what I want to achieve, therefore I literally don’t care how a work is done. I simply get the work done and hopefully each and every stroke is worth it.

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Boxer In Neon Camouflage (Self Portrait)| 2017

Can you tell us a bit about your series “Fifty Years Of…”?

The work illustrates the progress of democracy/a government by placing it side by side with a ordinary family scenario. One day, on the way to my studio in Ile Ife, I found a torn out page of an anniversary journal containing a family album on the ground. The writing on the page read “Fifty Years Of…” It wasn’t complete because the other side of the page had been torn off. So, I imagined that the end of the sentence could have been anything, such as: Fifty Years Of… marital bliss, democracy, happiness, heaven on earth and etcetera.

This really struck a chord and I decided to contrast the idea with the progress of an independent government. I wanted to question how much a government is expected to achieve in the space of 50 years with the resources at its disposal. Democracy/a government, I believe, is expected to grow in the same way as a family might while the union is still intact.

However, would it ever be as beautiful, positive and progressive as the love story of the anonymous couple in the torn out journal or would it be synonymous to a fifty year old infant overfed with the lamentations of the complaining masses? So far, does the expectation of the populace match the results that they witness? This is something I prefer leave to individual discernment.

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Untitled III| Fifity Years Of…|2016

What do you think about the African art scene?

Africa is a very multifaceted landscape and for most part a very complex one. For years, Africa has been a tormented continent and the ruins of colonialism are still present there. However, the African art scene is rapidly gaining a strong presence both locally and internationally and this is helped by the patronage of artists from the continent as well.

Africa still has a lot to recover from and far more grounds to cover but it is making phenomenal progress. However, beyond the global appreciation of art made by individuals from the continent, it pleases me to find artists and intellectuals who realize who they truly are and step out from invented psychotic confinements that confine them.

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