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‘Why painting is my alternative for words’ – Enuma Chukwu

Enuma Chukwu recently exhibited his paintings with the theme ‘Motions and Emotions’ in Abuja. Here, he talks about how he started painting, holding a solo…

Enuma Chukwu recently exhibited his paintings with the theme ‘Motions and Emotions’ in Abuja. Here, he talks about how he started painting, holding a solo exhibition in the capital city, and more. Excerpts:

What would you say attracted you to painting?

I think painting attracted me and not the other way around. Someone once told me that I didn’t choose art, instead it chose me. My painting is an extension of that calling and is probably the most prominent. I chose to concentrate on oil painting because it is arguably the most durable of all forms of the art. It is also the most flexible. When it is on the canvas it is very easy to move.

How did your journey as an artist begin? 

I was a very quiet child growing up, so I discovered my affinity to drawing early. This afforded me an alternative to spoken words. It was a kind of escape for me. I could express myself better in drawing than talking. I continued to draw at every stage of my life until it became a profession.

What was it like working on your first piece?

My first piece as an artist was a painting of milk maids. It was an attempt at an over flogged theme, and I had fun painting it differently. For my exhibition themed ‘Motions and Emotions’, the first work I made was titled ‘Sensuous’, the painting of a woman seated striking a sensuous pose. I did the work in gouache and tried to give oil painting an interpretation with it. I think it came out well.

Working on the ‘Motions and Emotions’ pieces was generally fun for me. I didn’t face any extra-ordinary challenge apart from those common with most artists. The conflict sometimes is thinking there is something you could have done differently. Sometimes you look at your work and see something you could have drawn or interpreted differently. Apart from that, I didn’t encounter any challenge.

Enuma Chukwu
Enuma Chukwu

It was your first time exhibiting in Abuja. What did it feel like?

It felt good and exciting because I knew I was coming to a place where art is still very much appreciated. So, I was prepared for it. I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout at the opening. I’m glad I was able to contribute to the art awareness this nation needs. I am also glad I got to do it in the nation’s capital.

What did it take for you to pull off a solo exhibition?

I faced financial challenges trying to pull this exhibition off. The reason being that it was self-sponsored. It was a huge burden to bear. I also had problems with the location. There are very limited good venues for art shows. It was sheer luck and good fortune that I got a slot to exhibit my pieces at the Thought Pyramid Art Centre. Getting that off my plate was such a relief.

What inspired ‘At His Feet’, a piece where you wrote the different names of God?

I will say that the piece is inspired by God Himself. I like to include God in everything I do, and I didn’t want a show where God would be absent. So, that’s my way of paying tribute to God and giving him a place in the exhibition. It’s funny how I thought it was a piece that wouldn’t be noticed. I thought people would come, look at it and just see a splash of colors. But I got a lot of comments about that particular painting. People really liked it and expressed their love for it. So, it kind of became the masterpiece of the exhibition because of these positive comments.

You exhibited a total of 32 artworks, and from what I saw, most of them were centered on family, love and life at sea. What was going through your mind when you painted them? Was the entire collection planned?

Every picture tells a story. Most of the works stand on their own. I first chose the theme ‘Motions and Emotions’, then I began to pick titles that agree with the theme and each painting. They are different even though they are linked to the theme. Every work felt different, and I painted them according to my mood and the exhibition’s theme.

What would you say is your major challenge as an artist?

My major challenge as an artist is trying to be the best you can be in an environment where the institutions that are supposed to support, help, and build you work against you. They frustrate you at every turn and do nothing to encourage you. The government really should encourage artists and creative minds in the country. We need each other to improve Nigeria.

What inspires your art generally?

It’s hard to put a finger on it. I will say God first and then everything else, even the negative. I say the negative because we can make the best out of a bad situation. That in itself is an inspiration. My interest in art is sustained by my love for it.

What are you working on presently?

I’m not working on anything specifically. I think I will continue painting ‘Motions and Emotions’ for some time. It’s a collection I would like to add more to. A painter’s work is never finished.

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