The World of Art is one seldom patronised by the average Nigerian. This places the responsibility of purchasing art, recognizing talent, and appreciating art on a select few. The nation also seems to be in short supply of art galleries and art exhibitions to display the hard work of burgeoning indigenous artists. This means they find it hard to get their work seen by society at large and get the recognition they deserve for their natural talents and honed skills. We need to go behind the curtain and take a peek at the life of a Nigerian artist to understand their story
Sarauta Network caught up with Samuel Momoh, a full-time Nigerian artist from Kogi state currently pushing his art in Abuja. He narrated his story about the origins of his journey, the challenges he faces as an artist, what keeps him going every day and many other things. You can read the full interview below.
WHEN DID YOUR JOURNEY AS A NIGERIAN ARTIST BEGIN?
I am a born artist, so I will say my art started right from my childhood. I started scribbling and drawing around 3/4 years old. At that stage of my life, every surface became a playground for me to draw and express my artistic skills. It was fun, the love and passion I had for art was indescribable. On several occasions, I would skip my meals and my parents would get upset and sometimes cajole me. I later realized art was traced to my family, especially my elder siblings.
Whenever I looked at the sketches on cartoon characters, houses, cars etc. I was really inspired. Later on, I began to explore new mediums and materials like coloured pencils, watercolour pastels, and textile materials among others. Growing up as a young artist I never had an art teacher or someone experienced in the art field to guide me. I was self-taught. This was quite challenging but I saw it as an opportunity to take it a step further and develop in my art. I did get instructions during my higher education (university), where I specialized in drawing and painting.
WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS LIKE AND HOW DO YOU GET IDEAS
FOR EACH ARTWORK YOU WORK ON?
As a creative person, the selection of medium/media needs to be cohesive so I can express myself easily. Materials such as pencils, charcoal pastel, acrylic, watercolour, oil support like canvas, board, paper and textile. Working with these mediums, it has helped me reflect on reality creating different effect tones and textures. When the selection of medium is successfully carried out, what to create becomes the next task. ‘’ideas surround us but only a creative mind can make them a reality” Art is about expression like using your imagination, seeing the picture as it is translated through your mind and becoming something different. Some sources of inspiration for me are God, nature and humans who give me ideas to depict and solutions to proffer to the complications and adventures of life. I do this through my styles from realism down to impressionism.
HOW HAS YOUR WORK EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
Well, I enjoy sharing this aspect of my life. Dedication, patience, practice and hard work have been part of me. I never limit my imagination and I never allow anyone to define my limit in life. I am so persistent in my pursuit of art and I strongly believe my best work is yet to be seen. Over the years, I continue to build my confidence. I make sure I try things that may not work, I never gave fear a chance to limit myself because I know true greatness comes from inspired persistence.
WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF YOUR WORK?
To depict cultural values, and portray the complications and adventure in life. My work seeks to reference reality and proffer solutions and morals for a better living for the now and posterity.
DO YOU HAVE YOUR ART DISPLAYED IN GALLERIES AROUND NIGERIA?
Not really but I believe in a matter of time they will be on display.
WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE FUTURE WITH YOUR ART?
Let me start by quoting the scripture. ‘’ A person plans his way, but the Lord directs his step, Proverbs 16:9. Becoming a successful artist. I really want to enjoy my career as a professional artist. Beyond myself, the aim of being a success is to see how I can establish art galleries across the nation, giving amateur, young and professional artists the opportunity to showcase their works. In this country, it is very challenging. Many artists produce amazing pieces of art but they are yet to be seen. The idea of establishing an art gallery will motivate artists to create and bring most of their hidden talents to the public. One thing about art is being ‘heard’ and ‘seen’. This is the joy in it. Also when art is exposed to the public then people can purchase these art products.
Another vital aspect I plan towards in the future is to set up a body or committee whose sole aim is to organize art competitions, creating various opportunities, like talent shows, innovative ideas and prizes for individuals who participate. Establishing the quality relationship between the Artist and the society at large. Art is a factor of nation-building which is meant to contribute not only to the cultural sector but also to the economic and political sector. Art should not be overlooked but put into consideration.
DO YOU HAVE NIGERIAN ARTISTS THAT YOU LOOK UP TO THAT MAY HAVE INFLUENCED YOUR WORK?
Oh yes, I do! Oswald Uruakpa is one Nigerian Artist that had an influence on me. Most of his works are photo finish (realism). He has a unique and amazing way of using colours, ideas and concepts in his works (including abstract, portraiture and landscape, compositional art etc.) I am so excited I met such a genius and great artist in my life.
WHAT MAKES YOUR WORK UNIQUE FROM OTHERS?
I would prefer my audience to have answers to this question (smiles). I have tried a lot of different styles, but I still find my way to Realism (realistic art). I try as much as possible not to reference other artists, but reference reality. I also learn not to copy another artist’s style of work. It will become obvious that the style isn’t mine. I stay true to myself. Every artist has a unique voice so I gracefully embrace mine.
WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS A NIGERIAN ARTIST?
Let me start by saying in the educational sector, art as a subject or course is deprived in many school curriculums, thereby affecting young talents who want to take art as a career of interest. This has led to many people losing their interest in their pursuit of art, especially at the primary and secondary levels. Getting materials has also been a major challenge for me. I can’t afford to purchase some of these materials and sometimes, they are just not available in the country. Another factor is theft and due to the fact we have fewer galleries in Nigeria, transportation of works to another town or city has become more challenging so I focus on commission
YOU MUST HAVE RECEIVED POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE FEEDBACK FOR YOUR WORK. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH NEGATIVE CRITICISM?
Can’t remember when last I had negative feedback on my work. But as a Nigerian Artist, one inescapable truth of the Art world I always have at heart is that throughout my career, all kinds of people will say all kinds of things about my art. Whether they tell me to my face, write about it, post it or gossip behind my back. Not only do I have to handle such negative feedback but I also figure out how to evaluate and respond wisely to them and most importantly, not to take them personally. I will not let negative
words take away my joy, love and passion for my work.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU ENJOY DOING BESIDES DRAWING?
When I am not drawing I enjoy playing video games, watching football and playing football. I also spend time reading and researching different topics.
You can follow him and stay in touch with his new projects
Facebook: Samuel Momoh