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‘Why I paint animals to look like humans’ – Ikechukwu Ezeigwe

Ikechukwu Ezeigwe is an anthropomorphic artist who studied Fine Art at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. Here,…

Ikechukwu Ezeigwe is an anthropomorphic artist who studied Fine Art at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. Here, he talks about his style, exhibitions, challenges and more. Excerpts:

How would you describe your type of art?

I make anthropomorphic artworks which means the attribution of human qualities to animals or non-human entities.  My paintings usually take the form of a hybrid animal.

What motivated you to go into that style of art?

Basically, the desire to do something that is different from what everybody else is doing. I use it to set myself apart and it has become a big selling point for me. My clients love the fact that my work is different.

My art means so many things to me. It is a basic medium of self expression. It also helped increase my level of self-worth. As a child, art was the only thing that separated me from my peers. It made me very different and loved by my peers. I feel fulfilled anytime I finish a piece of art.

How did your parents react when you decided to pursue a career as an artist?

My father didn’t like it. I got a lot of beating because of my love for drawing as a child. However, he is proud now, no doubt, if not for anything but the fact that I at least send money home.

How challenging has the journey been?

There have been a few challenges but the biggest was drowning the suggestions, opinions, derision and words of loved ones who said I should find something else to do.

When I started out, I thought I was the only Nigeria exploring anthropomorphic art, but I recently met someone who does the same thing.

You made ‘the Mona Lisa’ into a monkey. What inspired that?

I have done four Mona Lisas in that manner. The first one was used as the poster advert for Signature Gallery’s annual auction. However, I keep doing them because it’s been a hit with people. My clients keep demanding for it. So, the Monkey Monalisas’ are commissioned pieces.

What themes do you seek to explore?

Most of my paintings are centred around politics, love, and socio-cultural issues. For example, my painting ‘Buddies’ is based on a social theme. The cordial relationship between the chimp and his pet. It relates to the beautiful relationships we all share with our pets.

You recently held an exhibition at Freedom Park, Lagos. Can you tell us about it?

It was a group exhibition called ‘Ayama’ derived from the Delta language meaning ‘community of people.’ I showcased three artworks and it was a success because the turnout was huge. I sold all my works that day. It was my fifth major group exhibition.

What determines how you price your work?

It depends on how much I like it.

What is the most challenging piece you have worked on so far?

I don’t usually have challenges in making art that comes from inspiration. I only have challenges with commissioned works, especially with some interesting clients.

What do you think could strengthen the art community?

We need to collaborate more with other artistic bodies like those in the music and drama industry, as well as other corporations. We need more partnerships and collaborations. I feel we are too independent. We do things on our own. With collaborations and partnerships, we can do more big things. What we have currently are artists and galleries working independently. We can dream bigger. Who says we can’t own our own television media house? Those are the thoughts that course through my mind and what I dream for the visual arts community in the near future.

Who is your role model?

Interestingly, the person I admire is not an artist. Mr Rhaman Akar owns and manages Signature gallery in Ikoyi. He inspires me.

Who are your biggest influencers?

I have a myriad of them. From my boyhood a friend called Ndubuisi Chukwu encouraged me to pursue art. He was studying art at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education and graduated as the best student in his set. Interestingly, when I was admitted into the same school, I also graduated as the best student in my set. Besides him, my dad also played a vital role in the sense that he sponsored my education. Then Mr. Rhaman Akar played a big role in my art. I did my Industrial Training at his gallery and we spoke a lot about art and the business angle.

What’s your favourite part of being an artist?

It’s really satisfying when clients call and tell me how satisfied they are with my work. Also, I derive pleasure from inspiring younger students at seminars I am invited to.

What is the best advice you have ever gotten?

It’s “consistency is the secret of the game.” That is the advice I also give any budding artist.

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