Nwadiogbu talks about his third solo exhibition in London, his multi-perspective practice, and plans for his career in the next few years.
Art Report Africa: You recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts. Can you elaborate on how your time spent in the institution impacted your creative process and artistic vision?
Ken Nwadiogbu: When I was starting my Royal College of Art year, I began with the idea that I had to leave everything I knew behind and re-learn my practice by opening myself to experimentation. I intentionally made sure that I didn't do anything that I was used to doing. I just went in!
My tutors encouraged my desire for experimentation because most of them were familiar with my previous works and this helped me get inspired. Things like, the studio visits with renowned artists like Frank bowlin, and trying new mediums–all of these experiences informed this new practice and allowed me to expand my mind and to let go of my natural instinct thus, create room for new ideas.
Art Report Africa: Your solo exhibition at Kristin Hjellergerde is titled 'Fragments of Reality'. What does the title refer to and how does it relate to the works on display?
Ken Nwadiogbu: Fragments of Reality to me talks about our shared reality and how every choice we we make influences our perspective to life. When you experience something, for example, you choose where you what to go, who you want to be with or even the kind of songs you want to listen to; these are stored in our memory. However, these are not stored in full, they are stored in fragments, and these fragments are the most important part of these experiences. In turn, these experiences affect and influence our perspectives on life, and ultimately our own reality.
For this body of work, it was important for me to make these choices too. I was directly making choices to use canvas, and questioning how I want to present my ideas and context through the use of acrylic. I was also questioning how these choices affect how this work is perceived and how the viewer will experience it.
In summary, I believe reality is incredibly large, and the world is large. We experience different things everyday and The fragments are the most important part as they are only created from the choices we make.
Its the tiny part of reality that in everyday informs who we are and our perspective to life.
Art Report Africa: It’s really interesting how the colour palette for the works in this show differs from the tones you normally paint with. What is the reason behind this and how does this key into the exhibition concept?
Ken Nwadiogbu: In this body of work, I decided to play with contemporary realism and take it further to merge abstraction with realism. This choice was made in order to bring the familiar into this strange, unfamiliar space.
The use of blue, greens, yellows and reds is reminiscent of African Colours and they ultimately connect me to home (Nigeria). In addition, the colours are also inspired by the effects of thermographic camera–which records heat energy in reds, oranges and yellows. For the bulk of the series, I was trying to relate the effect of the thermographic camera to the energy that accompanies every experience we have. Every choice we make, carries some sort of energy that traces through time and space. It influences us and our perspective and ultimately, the way we live our life. The people I paint have energy and it becomes part of us and conforms, informs and inspires us.
Art Report Africa: Who are the figures In this body of work and how do you want viewers to encounter them?
Ken Nwadiogbu: When I got into RCA, I wanted to be anonymous and I didn't want anyone knowing about my previous successes. As a result, Some of the figures of the paintings were a reflection of this anonymity and I made them turning their backs on the viewer to conceal the identity but also to connect these scenarios of the compositions to connect to their experience. The viewer is now more concerned with how they can tie that persons experience with mine.
However, in some of the works, I still tried to include a sense of familiarity in the signature "eye cut outs" that has perviously featured in my work. There is an opportunity to have this eye-to-eye connection with some of the pieces to still see them human.
The character are my friends, family, people I met in RCA and people I believed carried the experience of London and immigration with them.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Ken Nwadiogbu (b. 1994, Lagos, Nigeria) is a multidisciplinary artist. Nwadiogbu is currently pursuing a master’s degree in painting from the Royal College of Art, London. A trained civil engineer, he soon pivoted to fine art, first embracing hyperrealism and charcoal drawing before expanding his creative horizon to more conceptual works and a wider array of techniques. On Nwadiogbu’s large canvases, stories superimpose themselves in multiple layers. Mixing together hyperrealism with contemporary elements, he explores grave matters in his colourful conceptual work, inviting us to address altogether black representation and identity, displacement, and socio-political control. Defending an art that can be at once smart and fun, he creates ingenious, politically charged visual illusions that deploy a singular outlook, daring the audience to question their own, for “value lies in the perspective”.
Solo Exhibitions include (Upcoming) Fragments of Reality, Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London, UK (2023); A Different Perspective, Retro Africa Gallery, Abuja, Nigeria (2022); Journey Mercies, Bomb Factory Art Foundation, London, UK (2021); UBUNTU, Thinkspace Projects, Los Angeles, USA (2021); CONTEMPOREALISM, BrickLane Gallery, London, UK (2019).
Interview by Sunshine Alaibe