Uche Uguru grew to love arts from childhood and was determine not to let that love die. In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, she shares her journey from passion to profession.
Why pursue art as a career?
I would like to think art chose me. Right from when I was a child, I saw I had the talent to draw and would often have drawing competitions with my brothers to see who’s best and that just grew my interest in drawing. When I got to secondary school, my teachers also noticed my talent and pushed me to explore my potential. They also encouraged me to study art in the university and that formed my career choice as an artist.
How has your background influenced your work?
I grew up in a family of seven and we are all art inclined, which has somehow influenced my work. It’s safe to say I got my talents from my parents who are also artists in their own rights. Because we are all talented in the family, I’m eager to push myself to discover what more lies within me.
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What sparks your creativity, Take us through your creative process?
I’ll say my environment plays a big role in my creativity. Growing up in Nigeria, I’ve been opportune to meet a lot of beautiful women which have influenced my art creation. A majority of my works speaks on women. I always try to express women’s strength, elegance, beauty in my artworks. I love to ensure my artworks portrays how strong the African woman, the Nigerian woman is despite any circumstances, she is able to survive anything that comes her way and be strong not just for herself, but in some cases, even for her family. My mother was always a role model for me because of how well she carried out family and for that reason, anytime I come across a hardworking woman, I am inspired to express it in my art.
Does research play in the development of your ideas?
Yes, it does. I make a lot of research on women and in my everyday life, I go through the process of doing some research on different people and their faces and facial features because my works are mostly portraits so I try to look for whose face is perfect for whichever piece I’m trying to create.
What will you consider a necessity to complete your work?
This will be my papers. They are very necessary for the completion of my work so I will need a lot of it. I’ll also need my canvas, my music, a little bit of exercise and dance and then some prayers. These are what I would consider necessary to complete any work or project.
How can you tell if a project is finished?
When I don’t know what else to do on it that is when I know that the art is complete. When they’re no more ideas flowing in, or my art doesn’t question me, that is when I know that I’ve reached my finishing point.
Do you think your work addresses any societal issues?
Yes, it addressed gender inequality. I try to make sure my art projects women as not just as inferior to men or anybody else. Women are a strong gender and should stand for themselves. They should own their bodies, trends, ideas, and not always be behind a man or wait for a man to give them a go-ahead before they move. This is an example of the kind of societal issues I try to portray in my works
Has your work ever been criticised? If yes, how did you handle?
I would say so far in my journey, my art has only been criticised in a positive way. If my works are seen by my lecturers or when artists look at my work and they criticize it, I take it in well because they are professionals. When professionals criticize the works, they mean well and it’s only natural for you to take what they’re saying because there are some things that I might not be seeing that they are seeing. Also, the audience too are like the onlookers, so when they express what they feel towards about my work, I also take it in well because this is what they feel about my work and I’m happy that they’re able to express themselves, I’m happy that my work is able to give them something to feel, something to express.
How do you overcome blocks in your creativity?
I visit a lot of art studios. When I feel creative blocks, I stop working and I go to other artists’ studios and get inspired by what they do. I go for exhibitions so I see new works that inspire me to create. I love travelling too, I just go on vacations so that I can clear my head up. I like to read a lot, so I read books that can help me get my mind back on track, I also dance and exercise and this helps me feel better and puts me in a proper mindset to be a creative.
Which of your works do you consider to be your favourites?
I do not have a particular artwork which I consider to be my favourite. However, over time, I’ve noticed that I tend to appreciate my work more whenever it’s being bought. I guess it’s the thought of knowing that it doesn’t belong to me anymore allows me to put that particular work on a pedestal and adore it more until it’s out of my possession.
What do you find most exciting about what you do?
I find the creative process the most exciting from when I’m about to start to the moment I finish. Once I have my sketches, I’m able put together a theme or the object I want to bring on to my canvas and I’m able to complete it, I feel excited and I’m happy. I’m also happy when I have exhibitions, this is when I feel the most excited about what I do and then when the work sells, I also feel excited; I’m happy that my hard work pays. I’m happy my art pays the bills and I’m able to give myself a good life with the money I make from my arts.
What do you think the most difficult challenges for artist are?
In my opinion, I think no one speaks on how difficult is it for an artist to create arts and still sell it. I don’t think that artists should be the ones to sell their artworks. There are supposed to be channels such art galleries, curators to help connect these artist to a network of buyers and collectors. It’s mentally draining to start a project, finish it and then still have to find who will be willing to buy the work. It’s very challenging and can hinder creativity for some.
What, in your opinion, distinguishes your work from that of other artists?
No two artworks are ever the same. So many things distinguish my work from that of others. To start with, my medium is paper collage which is not a usual medium chosen by artist. Also, the style I wish to draw my portraits will be very different from another artist. An Asian painter creating an image of a black woman will be different from how I (as a Nigerian woman) will decide to create it.
If you could have a superpower, which would you wish to have and why?
If I had any super power, it would be to change the fate of the country. I believe if the country was working as it should be, many would be content knowing that their hard work and effort will pay off as it should.
What food, drink, or song motivates you?
I wouldn’t say I have any food or drink that motivates me although swallow and any kind of draw soup is my favourite, alongside water. For music, I listen to a lot of Sade Adu to calm me down. I also listen to Asa and Ayra Starr.