In conversation with Collins Obijiaku, a young self-taught artist that lives and works in Suleja, capital of Niger State, Nigeria; I am able to gain insight into his personality and how creating art is a form of escape for him. The artist talks about how he used to draw traditionally with charcoal before switching to oil paints. He shares with us how he started out by creating portraits of people for weddings and birthdays before delving into his current style of painting in 2019.
As an introvert, Collins uses his art as a means of connecting to people. Where words fail him, he turns to creating portraits of those around him, using the lines in his drawings to depict the way time and life continues to move around us, with no end.
“I see that here in Suleja, it’s a place where everyone has to hustle and strive for whatever they want. You come to Suleja and you see a lot of traders, people hawking in the sun. Those are the kind of things you see here so I like to capture those elements of my surroundings in my paintings.”
When asked about his creative process, Collins says he reaches out to people he wants to paint and takes photographs of them before turning it into a painting, these could be those around him or strangers in his environment.
66 x 50.8 cm
Acrylic, oil color, charcoal on paper
What’s your favorite piece of art you’ve ever created & why?
“I don’t know. There are some of my paintings that after completing them, I have love for the painting. But I still develop interest in creating other works. So it’s evolving. I don’t have a favourite. I just have a couple paintings that I’ve fallen in love with, because of the subject for example.”
He recalls a painting of his younger sister and her child as one of the paintings he loves.
How do other artists inspire you?
“I’m inspired by quite a few artists. I feel a connection to their works. Some of them include Amoako Boafo. I love his paintings because of how free he is when painting – he doesn’t do too much or too little. It’s just him being himself and it reflects in his painting and that’s something that resonates with me. I also like Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, to name a few.”
What next can we expect from you?
When asked what to expect from future projects, there’s an excitement in his voice as he describes his plans. It’s a project that is close to his heart and we can look forward to entering further into the world through the eyes of this artist.
But until then, you can look forward to his first solo exhibition set to happen this year at the Ada Gallery, Accra. Exact date to be confirmed as Covid-19 regulations have slowed down plans.
Untitled, 2020 – pictured above is one of the works on display at the exhibition “SAY IT LOUD (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” a virtual selling exhibition dedicated to the promotion and empowerment of Black art in partnership between curator Destinee Ross-Sutton and Christie’s. The exhibition, which will be open until August 18, spotlights 22 Black artists who each explore the notion of identity and perception, providing them with a global platform for the celebration and amplification of their work.
Collins’ painting has been described as showing “the artist’s celebration of blackness through elegantly constructed portraits. Through their gaze, the viewer is to be transported into a world where black people exist as themselves, innately elegant and unfazed by the world and its never-ending constructs. Obijiaku has a notable relationship with lines; his brushstrokes are seemingly topographic, taking the viewer into a landscape of the wonder and magic of the visage.”