Elizabeth Omolara Adenugba is a professional studio artist, illustrator, story board and urban artist more popularly known as Clara Aden. She was in the news recently for her work which featured at the Amref Artball auction. She speaks about it and her art style with Daily Trust on Sunday.
What was the motivation to go into visual arts?
My passion for drawing. My mother knew I was into art at the early age of four. Ever since l have been able to hold a pencil, it’s been the “driving force” that keeps me going with persistence and determination to succeed.
According to Vincent Van Gogh’s letter to his brother, Theo on August 20, 1882: “As practice makes perfect, I cannot but make progress; each drawing one makes, each study one paints, is a step forward.”
These words inspire me. I meditate on them and in an automatic unconscious way, I develop the habit of drawing every day. I saw a lot of Michelangelo’s drawings.
I studied Painting and Decorating at Federal Science and Technology Yaba. I have been illustrating professionally since 1999 and eventually earned my spot as Assistant Production Manager and Art illustrator at Soul Publication Limited, Hearts magazine.
I have participated in several international and national art exhibitions. I’m the Vice president of Female Artists Association of Nigeria (FEAAN) and President, Beyond Borders Artists Association of Nigeria (BBAAN). I have won awards in several national and international competitions. I work with oil, acrylics and pastel. My principal medium is charcoal and pencil.
Realism is the main feature of my practice. I use lines and smudge drawing technique. My works are precise, accurate and detailed. They revive images and ideas from the past and the present, re-infusing and inserting them into a contemporary context. My body of works comes out strong when l have a specific timeline to create.
What themes do you most focus on?
Issues relating to women and children are what I most focus on. Sometimes, l do not have to work on a theme but, all my works must have ideas that backs them up.
What’s the story behind your work, ‘Peace and Harmony’?
I won the OYASAF international program for artist-in-residence in April 2018, along with Alexandra Spyratos. She is a Greek international artist born in Kenya. After our brainstorming sessions in Lagos, we went to Abeokuta. For three weeks we researched and worked on the economic activities of women in Abeokuta markets. I saw the woman sitting at the entrance gate with a big hat shielding her face from the sun, in between her legs was a big bucket filled with fish. Beside her was another empty big bucket with an inscription ‘Peace and Harmony.’ I had to stare to be able to read it. The words inspired me to create the work. It brings to my mind the crucial role of women as peacemakers in society, based on their roles as nurturers, as the hands that rock the cradles.
One of your works was highly celebrated, recently. Please tell us about the piece and the story behind the recognition it got?
Last December, I saw an open call for African artists for the Amref Artball 2019 on Facebook. Amref Artball is a premier contemporary African Art Auction and philanthropic event that aims to raise funds and awareness for Amref Health Africa.
The Artball 2019, featured a silent auction via Artsy, showcasing works from over 25 African artists.
‘Comfort Zone’ is my artwork selected for the art auction. It is one of the ‘Lost and Found’ series on ‘Refining Identity: the role of Nigeria Women in Africa continent.’
I have seen your paintings, drawings and collage. Which are you most comfortable with?
I believe artists should be able to break out of their “comfort zone” and out of their obstinacy against some art mediums. Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo did not limit their creativity to a particular medium. As an artist it is good to be uncomfortable. If you try a medium and the work is not coming out well, there is no harm in trying again and again. Learning process should be your priority. I am comfortable with my medium be it old or new, but l love pencils and charcoal.
How do you decide what medium to use for a particular piece?
Each medium has its own characteristics and qualities. Each requires its own techniques for creating art. There are endless ways to create art. This means there are endless art materials to choose from to create your masterpiece. At times, when l am spending a good amount of time on a piece, l like to be precise and extremely patient after sketching with willow charcoal. At other times, l follow my instincts and just start drawing or painting.
Who or what has been your most inspiration?
My biggest inspiration at about age of 12, was my art teacher. As her pencil glides over her paper surface, very striking lines emerges and shading techniques are well presented. The entire process fascinated me. Then, l started reading art history books, especially the High Renaissance in Italy, and became interested in
Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. After that, many things around the world, inspire me.
Narratives of everyday lives of people l engage with, experiences that are specific to me. Things l observe in my environment speak more deeply to me. These experiences and encounters, inspire me to create my works. I have developed a way to narrate these experiences and encounters, through illustrations or conceptually.
How well would you say that Nigerian female artists practicing at home have occupied the global art space?
For many centuries, women have been involved in making art. They have and will continue to be an integral part of the institution of art. However, there are challenges due to gender biases. Most of the women have difficulty in selling their artworks or gaining recognition for their hard work. In the 20th century, things began to change for women artists. Nigerian female artists practicing at home are occupying the global art space exceedingly. Although the challenges are enormous, they are still projecting their art very well.
What would you recommend they did differently to make their works better known?
They should get more active on social media and participate in exhibitions. I met you online through Mrs. Chinze Ojobo’s Facebook post of my artwork.
Joining an artist association can benefit one’s career. They should find one that works well for them. I am a member of FEAAN, which has a mission to identify talented Nigerian female artists, using them and their skills to bring about positive social change in the society. I have keyed into its vision to foster a sense of pride and achievement among female creative professionals and also its promoting the dignity of women and encouraging members to continue to practice their art.
What are you working on at the moment?
Last year October l coordinated a humanitarian art initiatives project titled ‘Beyond prison,’ a collection of workshop sessions with prison inmates in Ikoyi Prison. They learned artistic and social skills that will aid them in their life transition while incarnated, upon release. The project is funded by Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) and Beyond Borders Artists Association of Nigeria. This year, we want to reach out to women and children with autism and also do a feedback on the ‘Beyond Prison’ project and ‘Our Environment’ project with the boys at the Correctional Center for Boys in Oregun.