Okenwa Chimobi is not the usual contemporary artist. With a love for pop and modern culture, he has found a way to use his art to connect with the minds of the younger generation. In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, Slymegida takes us into the world of pop art and all it has to offer.
How does your artwork challenge traditional notions of art and aesthetics?
Pop Art’s Diversity: Our artwork challenges traditional notions of art and aesthetics by embracing the vibrant world of pop art. In this digital age, we’re connected to a global audience, allowing us to create art that transcends cultural boundaries. Pop art’s diversity enables us to connect with the rest of the world, offering a fresh and dynamic perspective on art and aesthetics. This connection fosters an environment of inclusivity and creativity, redefining what art can be in our interconnected world.
What inspires your choice of vibrant and bold colours in your work?
Art That Pops: The choice of vibrant and bold colours in my work is inspired by the desire to create art that truly pops. In the digital age, our world is filled with a kaleidoscope of colours, and these colours have become an integral part of how we communicate and express ourselves. By using vibrant and bold colours, I aim to make my art come alive and resonate with the spirit of our times. In an era where colours are everything to people, we need vibrant and bold hues to engage and connect with those living in this colourful and dynamic age. These colours serve as a vibrant language, allowing us to communicate with people in a way that is both relevant and exciting
Can you explain the significance of using popular culture icons in your art?
Capturing the Essence of Our Time: Incorporating popular culture icons into my art holds immense significance. These icons are not just figures of fame; they are emblematic of our era and the transformative forces that have shaped it. By weaving them into my creations, I aim to narrate the story of our journey and evolution.
Knowledge and Continuity: Through these icons, we construct a bridge between the past and the present. It’s a way to build knowledge and ensure we continue to grow, adapt, and pay tribute to the cultural forces that have brought us to this point. Popular culture icons encapsulate the essence of their time, and it’s through their representation in art that we can understand, appreciate, and critically examine the contemporary world
How do you strike a balance between high and low culture in your creations?
Equal Significance of Cultures: In my creative process, I don’t rank cultures as high or low. Instead, I recognize that every culture is inherently valuable and holds its own unique significance. Culture is a reflection of the diverse human experiences and expressions. Thus, I aim to honour and celebrate this diversity in my creations by giving equal weight to the myriad of cultures, all of which contribute to the rich tapestry of our global society.
What role does social commentary play in your visual-pop art?
Reflecting Society’s Conversations: Social commentary plays a significant role in my visual-pop art. It often serves as a mirror to the conversations and issues that are prevalent in society. What people talk about, what’s on their minds, and the stories that capture the collective consciousness influence our creative choices. We want our art to be a reflection of the world around us and to engage with the ongoing dialogues and narratives that shape our society.
How do you decide on the subjects or themes for your pieces?
A Social Observer’s Perspective: Selecting subjects and themes for my artwork is a process rooted in my role as a social observer. It involves a deep connection to societal dynamics and conversations. Through interactions with societal activists and being immersed in the world around me, I gain insights into the pressing issues, stories, and emotions that are essential to our times. My art aims to encapsulate and communicate these themes, offering a visual narrative of our shared experiences and aspirations.
Can you share the process of transforming everyday objects into works of art?
Creating from Real-Life Stories: Certainly. My artistic process often begins by listening and engaging with real-life stories and issues that may not receive the attention they deserve. For instance, a friend shared a heart-wrenching story about her brother’s struggles with drug abuse at a very young age. This narrative struck a chord with me, and I felt compelled to transform it into a work of art.
Awareness and Education: The next step involved creating a piece inspired by this story and using it as a tool for raising awareness. I took this art on tour to teenage schools, where it served as a conversation starter. The aim was to engage young minds in meaningful discussions about the challenges they might face and to foster understanding and empathy. By giving a voice to such stories and utilizing everyday objects as a canvas for these narratives, I hope to not only create art but also bring attention to important issues and make a positive impact in society.
How has technology influenced your art, particularly in the digital age?
In the digital age, technology has significantly expanded my artistic horizons. It has allowed my work to reach a global audience and inspired collaborations with artists worldwide. Additionally, technology provides faster access to information, which informs and influences my art, making it a dynamic and responsive medium.
What emotions or messages do you hope your art conveys to viewers?
My art aims to convey messages of hope and emotional strength. I aspire to provoke a wide range of emotions and stimulate minds, encouraging viewers to find strength and inspiration in my work.
Do you see your work as a form of escapism or as a reflection of reality?
I view my work as a multifaceted reflection of both reality and a means of escapism. It serves as a time recording machine, capturing the essence of this era while also providing an avenue for escape from the everyday. By portraying the nuances of our contemporary world, my art invites viewers to contemplate their reality while offering them a journey into alternate realms and perspectives.
How has your background or personal experiences shaped your approach to visual-pop art?
My background and personal experiences have significantly moulded my approach to pop art. It’s not a conventional path but rather a result of a unique journey. My formative years were shaped by the structure and discipline of a military school during my secondary education. This experience instilled in me a sense of order, precision, and a deep appreciation for detail. Moreover, my international exposure during my university studies in another country broadened my horizons and exposed me to diverse cultures and artistic traditions. These varied experiences play a pivotal role in my art, allowing me to blend global influences and challenge traditional artistic norms to create visually compelling and socially relevant works.
Can you describe any recurring motifs or symbols in your artwork and their meanings?
Certainly, in my artwork, I frequently incorporate recurring motifs and symbols, lately I have been drawing inspiration from Nsibidi. Nsibidi is an ancient graphic communication system developed by the people of Cross Rivers State. These symbols hold deep cultural and historical significance. The use of Nsibidi motifs in my work is a way of paying homage to this rich heritage and culture. It also serves as a bridge between the past and the present, allowing me to convey both traditional and contemporary messages through my art.