Arts. There would be no world without arts in fact Art is so quintessential and natural to human beings that archaeological evidence holds that the early hunter gatherer humans drew stick man figures to tell their stories in the caves.
Visual Arts is a very beautiful form of expression. It is one of the modes through which imagination and creativity and natures beauties can flow from mind to brush to painting or photograph, etc.
Sarauta Magazines Nenkinan Deshi interviewed Dr. Jacob Onoja an elite artist and they had a chat about visual arts and its place in society. Dr. Onoja is currently holding an exhibition of works at Magnet House Plot 50973, Zarmaganda – Rayfield Road, Jos, Plateau State. I was there and was highly awed – you should go there if you can too. Read the interview below and if you are a budding artist be inspired to keep on. This is a sequel to the interview on arts music and writing specifically with Dr. Doug Kaze about a month ago.
Q. Good Day Sir, please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
R. I am Dr. Jacob Onoja, a painter cum art historian.
Q. How did you venture into arts? What fueled the journey into that world?
R. From early childhood I have always loved art and creating various designs in my home and community. My parents believed so much in my passion for art and encouraged me early to pursue a career in visual arts. Today, I hold a Ph.D. in my dream career and fueled with the passion for greater creations of paintings, especially landscape paintings and art historical discussions and writings.
Q. Paintings and photography? What is the connection between both and how do you balance your interest in both?
R. They are both visual art forms. Expressions using different media of paints, brushes and the camera respectively. Painting is tasking and requires good hand – eye coordination, imaginations and interpretative dexterity. Photography on the other hand is careful manipulation of light or writing with light. There is a lot of artistry in photography, hence, using both for me, gives better room of expression in the visual arts.
Q. What else do you do for leisure and how does it relate to art?
R. Reading, listening to good gospel and jazz music. Sports. Music sooths the nerves, hence, it liberates the creative mind and serves a catalyst to creativity. Art and music are an inseparable duo.
Q. Your major form of art is landscape paintings? Why did you choose this specifically and how does it differ from other forms of paintings?
R. Landscape painting is all encompassing. Land forms, figures, natural vegetation and lots more. Landscape painting is simply therapeutic to me and several others who create such art forms. The sublime nature of the genre of painting is a reach out point for me as an artist, helping me engage with my environment and issues around.
Q. Do your works come mainly from imagination or do you use real places and images as muses?
Q. What is the place of visual arts in today’s society? Do you think we are taking it as serious as we should or are lagging behind?
R. The place of visual arts in the society cannot be overemphasized. Aesthetic judgements, product designs and packaging, innovations and ground breaking designs are in preserves of artists in the society. The society will be a dull place without the input of artists. Imagine a world without colour. Artists are extensions of the Hand of God, fulfilling the purpose of God in fruitful creation of aesthetics.
There is a conscious awareness of the potency of artists in the society. I am of the opinion that we are taking art more seriously now as compared to years back in our country and this should be encouraged to advance the frontiers of arts and aesthetics.
Q. What is your message to society and younger artists?
R. Keep creating artworks and stay productive. To the younger artists, the future of the visual arts is great. Engage actively in creative ventures of the visual arts and surprise yourself. Visual arts is therapeutic, it’s an antidote for laziness and other vices associated with young people.
Q. Can you explain the story behind some of your works?
R. My works are borne out of deep meditation, experimentation and the share joy of expression in paintings. In Country side Allegory (Plate I) for instance, the work expresses deep thoughts of my devotion to God and a longing for an unadulterated environment.
Plate I: Onoja, Jacob. Country Side Allegory, Oil on canvas, 60 x 90 cm. 2018
The pristine air of the country side is therapeutic. The undulating mountains, green areas and natural meadows, the heavenly feels of wild flowers blossoming with life and a myriad of fragrances filling the air draws one into the landscape with a love for more. Actually, I was thinking of a city, whose maker and builder is God. The painting brings to mind the scriptural reference in Rev.21: 18 – 27. The work is just a figment of my imagination of heavenly beauties created allegorically using the landscape genre.
In another painting titled Dryness in the midst of plenty (Allegory of Nigeria)(Plate II), an Oil on canvas painting done in 2018. The work speaks expressly of the Nigerian situation.
Plate II: Onoja, Jacob. Dryness in the midst of plenty (Allegory of Nigeria), Oil on canvas, 2018
A country blessed with sufficient natural resources flowing like river, which should be lush and flourishing, is all dried up and scrawny. The exploitation of the poor, vulnerable and deprived societies is some of the key issues raised in the painting. While one is enjoying the scenic beauty of the landscape, deep questions are raised concerning the tree looking dry. The question is, if a tree be cut down, can it live again? What is the hope of Nigeria and the citizenry in the midst of plenty and yet suffering deprivations and lacks?
Q. What are your plans for the future?
R. Working to make greater impact in the visual arts paradigm. More experimental paintings and innovations, staging and attending more exhibitions and actively engaging the academia and public in art based issues for a holistic societal transformation.
Thank you for reading about art and its very important place in today’s society. Lets appreciate each other in our efforts towards Societal growth. And If you are a budding painter, keep up and do many more great works.
Don’t forget to brush into Dr. Onojas exhibition (if in Jos) and purchase some beautiful art.