Hyperrealism is an art concept that has been generating a lot of excitement across Nigeria. Nnadi Ikechukwu is one of the hyperealist artists garnering attention on social media with his paintings. In this interview with Arts & Ideas, he shares how he found his love for painting and channeling his emotions onto the canvass.
What was the drive behind becoming an artist? Where did the passion come from?
Art is just an outlet for me to express my emotions. I became an artist by default it wasn’t planned. I just found my gift at a very early age. My passion however comes from wanting to be seen or heard, to transfer what I feel to my viewers. Early on, I wasn’t allowed to speak on certain things, so I buried my feelings and found a way to do that through art.
How would you describe your art?
Well my art is introspective and hyperealistic. It’s a conversation between me and my canvass. I try not to think about what people will think or say when they see it, I just keep it truthful.
What would you say makes your paintings stand out from the rest?
For my paintings, I’ve learnt and passed through different techniques from the masters and found my way from them. So I’m unique because no two people pass through life the same way so my upbringing and experiences influence how I do my art.
Hyperealism is like a challenge between man and camera: the edge the artist has is his ability to think independently and be creative. So to me it’s a challenge and I love challenges. To prove I can do it.
What type of paint do you use and what’s the reason behind your choice?
I use oil and acrylic paint majorly although I also do colour pencil, pastel and charcoal works, the richness and vividness of acrylic/oil make them a natural preference to me. But like I said I use all mediums when necessary.
How would you describe the feeling you get when you see how people appreciate your works?
I get really thrilled and astonished that what I spent time alone doing can go out there and find a connection with someone I don’t even know or have never met. It’s a trip. But when I work, I try not to think about what people will say or think so I just keep my work as honest as I can and not do anything just because people “might” like it.
How do you use your art to express yourself?
I tell my story and the stories of other people know through my art. I try to put it in as much elements as I can. The titles mostly give a clue to the story behind the painting.
Which was your favourite piece to work on?
My favourite piece to work on would be “true friends” (acrylic and oil on canvass) because it deals with friendship and that is a basic human need. If there were more friends there would be less enemies and less of all the atrocities going on in the world today. If we can keep our sanity while we are little, what happens in society that changes everybody and makes everybody so quick to anger? On a personal level, I really view friendship as a very close bond you have with certain people, who will be there for you through thick and thin and we all need that. So with that piece, I felt like I really hit the nail on the head with little else to say or add.
Let’s say you weren’t an artist, what else do you think you would have done well in?
I’m thinking hard now. Wow. Art is actually the only thing I could ever see myself doing. This is it for me.
In what ways do you think art can be more appreciated in Nigeria?
I think art can be better appreciated if we, the artists, pay more attention to packaging. With due respect, I think the same way a profession like medicine has standards, art should too so that people will stop looking at it like something riffraff do or it’s nothing really special. Just useless splashing of colours.
Also, art appreciation as a subject should be taught in primary schools so you really give the next generation a bedrock to start from because there’s only so much you can do with people who are already mature. But the bulk of the work lies on artists packaging themselves and putting some dignity in our labour. Not failing deadlines or presenting something lower than the standard expected by our clients will definitely boost the way we and our artworks are perceived and appreciated.
Being an artist must have its challenges. Can you talk about a few and how you tackle them?
Every profession has challenges and art when not established as a day to day business, leaves the artist out cold and broke sometimes because paid jobs come seasonally for most of us. So I try to get around this by always pushing the business aspect of it and trying to make deals happen back to back. It’s not easy though. Secondly, sometimes you can only get certain materials in certain states or places so you have to travel or send for them and wait for delivery
which might eat into your work time due to transportation hitches and all that. Also, you might want to frame a work a certain way but its unavailable so you have to either wait until the shop get their next batch of purchase or you rush into something else just to meet deadline. Most times though, I try to have two or three ideas in mind for backup purposes.
How would you define creativity?
Creativity is one’s ability to see beyond the normal person who just sees things the way they are and can’t re-imagine them. So to be creative is to have a steady working imagination, to always think of twisting and turning things into something else other than what the average person would think.
What’s the secret to your success as an artist?
All it takes is God and consistency. As much as the art business is serious business, if you enjoy what you do, you won’t see it as hard work.
At what point would you say you feel fulfilled as an artist?
When my name and art become a constant presence whenever art is mentioned be it in terms of depth, value or among the elite artists. Everybody wants to be a master at his/her craft. When I get to that point, that is if there is a way of knowing when I get there, I will feel a certain satisfaction for where I am right now. But the truth is, we always reach for the next level available.
What advice would you give other upcoming artist to prosper and do well in the arts?
My advice is just tell yourself the truth: is this what you want to do?
Keep your passion up. See every experience as an inspiration. Nobody says it’ll be easy. Just have fun doing what you do and believe that God will reward you. Also, work on your business knowledge too and broaden your horizon as much as you can.