Create! Magazine was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview one of the highlight artists who will be exhibiting at the fair, Ken Nwadiogbu. Ken is a Nigerian visual artist whose practice is primarily centered around hyper-realistic drawings and is inspired by gender equality, African cultures, and black power.
You actually studied civil and environmental engineering in school so how did you pivot to focusing on art?
Interesting question. If you’re from Africa, you’ll understand that nothing says “value” more than a university degree. Not just any degree, but either from Engineering, Law, Accounting or Medicine. So from a young age, the society starts, subconsciously, breeding this hunger; regardless of it being your passion or not. This was my case. Everyone wanted me to be an Engineer, and it became a subconscious part of me, even tho I loved drawing.
I entered into Civil and Environmental Engineering in the University of Lagos. Was doing pretty well till I stumbled on someone drawing the Dean of the University at that time. Everything changed from there. The feeling of Art started coming back, the hunger begun to grow, I begun researching and asking questions- “how did he draw that?” Study brought hunger.. hunger brought addiction... addiction brought love. And that’s how I feel deep in love with art in the first year of my university.
Was it something that you were always interested in or pursuing on the side?
I never thought I’d be a visual artist 7 years ago. All I thought was, I was gonna be an Engineer. The moment I started art, my mindset changed and this slowly drifted my attention from my studies into my art. Couldn’t quit Engineering, cause to everyone, the excuse was “a taboo”, so I had to get that certificate, prove I had that value, then pursue art exactly how I wanted to pursue it. “Art is not lucrative”, they’d say. “Art is for the poor”, “Art is for the dumb”... so many wrong perception... but I’d not blame them, I’ll blame the society for the lack of knowledge and exposure, and the government for the lack of support to the Nigerian art scene.
Your work is described as being part of the Contemporealism movement. What do you see as the core principles of this style of art?
I started off doing Hyperrealism as my mentors range from the likes of Carole Feuerman to Chuck Klose. But you see, one would describe hyperrealism as a genre of painting and sculpture, resembling a high resolution photograph... Just that.
For me, I’ve always wanted more, so what I try to do with my work is not just creating high resolution photographs but incorporating with it- the 3-Dimensional illusion and figurative elements born from conceptual ideas and contextual narratives. In some sense all I’m trying to do is deploy elements of contemporary art or illusions of form and space, usually, to create emphasis in the narrative I portray. With this style, I get to display Hyperrealism in a ‘unique Contemporary way’.