Omonu Salisu is an Abuja-based creative artist. The Kogi State-born artist began by embracing the experimental nature of lines, shapes, figures and colours to form abstract paintings. His works are unique, as he uses colours to symbolize cultural emblems representing African society. His recent works are translated with motifs, the symbols of West Africa also represents popular proverbs and maxims, record historical events, express particular attitudes or behaviour related to depicted figures, or concepts uniquely related to abstract shapes. In this interview, he speaks on his sojourn in the industry and the challenge of making a name in the industry.
Tell us about your journey into art.
I did not want to be an artist. I wanted to remain a graphics designer. Art was just a hobby. Most of my artistic interest at the time was in making digital art; then I found the Art and Craft Village, Abuja. I discovered that there were people who made a living by painting beautiful and amazing things. I started taking drawing and painting lessons from some artists including Clement Nwafor and Obiora Ekeanozie. From the moment I choose art, the fear began of not being good enough and it is this fear that has driven me to improve. Since then, graphics has become partial. I have been fully involved in painting because that is where I found my strength and power to express myself more.
What is it about art that makes you wake up at night?
Unfinished works and new ideas. Most times, when working on a body of works, it gets a little confusing and I have to keep the work aside and start thinking of a better way to bring the idea on a canvas. These ideas may come from an event or a discussion with people and would help me realize what was missing from the work.
I also reminisce about my work.
What is your area of strength as an artist?
My strength is identifying my greatest weakness. Knowing what to create and learning how to adapt to what I create has become my strength.
What interests you about lines?
Lines describe forms, space, textures, symbols, movement, light and visual interest in my paintings.
What do you want to achieve with your works?
I want to draw attention to something and also present a fresh angle on something, to capture an aspect of the world or celebrating it using colours and shapes of objects.
Why are you passionate about representing Nigerian society in your art?
Art is used to depicting our (Nigeria or Africa) cultures, emphasize the importance of our traditions and is valued for its functional purposes.
What makes your work unique?
Originality, style, authenticity, everyone in the world is unique and most people use creativity. This is important because it shows how people would be remembered. I would love to be remembered for helping others, being kind and compassionate.
Colour could make or mar any work, how have you been able to make good use of it?
Colours affect the composition of a painting, I have been able to use colours to harmonize, to create emphasis, to unify and set forth a visual path.
There are several artists within and outside the country doing wonders; do you feel pressured into succeeding?
It is a difficult spot to be in: you put your heart and soul into every piece and then have to share it with an art world that can be highly critical, using standards that are completely subjective and these doubts will corrode your self-confidence until there’s nothing left. The deeper you dive into your art career, the more opportunities there are for you. I have found value in my art and I am succeeding already. I have many role models including Clement Mmaduakor Nwafor, Obi Nwaegbe, and Prince Timi Rich Kakandar. We don’t have to compete within ourselves as artist’s globally; we need a niche for our paintings.
Despite the number of successful artists in Nigeria, do you think younger people are encouraged to taking up the profession?
They are encouraged, especially those that are ready to stay focused and make arts work.
What are your plans in the art industry?
Everyone dreams of turning their hobby into a business, my main plan is to keep painting new artworks and own a gallery one day where I can have a collection of artworks from other artists. In five years, I see myself as a master of my art, with continuous practice.
Are your works selling as much as you’d have wanted them?
My works are selling but not as much as I had wanted them to; it’s a gradual process. I am happy whenever I make a sale but I have not made the highest sale yet.