Despite graduating with the Rector's Award as the best student in sculpture from Auchi Polytechnic in 2007, Stephen Osuchukwu, is more well-known for his charcoal drawings. In this interview, the Beninese artist tells us how these two styles compliment each other and his projects to exhibit his works in both 2D and 3D in 2021. Continue reading to learn more about this remarkable artist.
AWORANKA: How do you think the ancient culture of the rich city of Benin shaped your love for art and practice?
STEPHEN OSUCHUKWU: Benin is widely recognized for its arts and crafts starting from the ancient works in bronze to modern events such as Festac' 77 Mask. Everywhere you look in the city, there is art.
When I was young I would always try to learn by copying what we saw. I tried sketching every piece of art and with time my love for art grew stronger. Benin is one of the major factors that influenced my love for art.
AWORANKA: You are a successfully trained sculptor yet your charcoal works are what you are well known for, how complementary are these two styles?
STEPHEN OSUCHUKWU: I've been practicing sculpting most of my life but I'm very prolific in drawing and I truly love it. When I am sculpting I feel like I'm drawing with either metal, clay, or cement. In terms of drawing I started with charcoal as it was a very affordable and easy medium to express my love for drawing. My objective now is to become as well-known for my sculpture as I am for my charcoal works.
Next year I'll be displaying a collection of my sculptures and my charcoal drawings at the same exhibition. This will give the viewers the opportunity to discover how a drawing comes to live in the shape of a sculpture. This will allow collectors to acquire the same work in 2D and 3D.
“I’ve come to realize that my day to day life is art.
There is no difference between practice and personal life.
My life itself is art.”
AWORANKA: What would you say are the threats but also the opportunities faced by the Nigerian visual art community, compared with their foreign counterparts?
STEPHEN OSUCHUKWU: Every time I leave the shores of Africa towards other continents I ponder on this same issue. Buying art in Nigeria is not as popular as in other countries. Most people don’t learn about art from an early age and therefore they don’t appreciate art as much as it is appreciated in other countries or continents.
In my opinion, both the government and the educational community have an opportunity to improve our infrastructure and social amenities to further promote arts and tourism in the country. This would have a strong impact on the appreciation of our own art and heritage.
Nigeria is home to very talented and creative young minds. These human resources are the future of the art industry in the country and we need to support and promote them so that they can become prophets in their own land.
AWORANKA: Which visual artists have influenced your style the most and why?
STEPHEN OSUCHUKWU: I was highly influenced by my lecturer Mr. Paul Ehizele. He is a senior lecturer in Auchi Polytechnic and has probably inspired hundreds of young Nigerian artists like myself. He's was the one who helped me develop my drawing skills. From him I learned how 'draw with clay' and I’m grateful to him for everything he taught me.
Since those days I’ve come to realize that my day to day life is art. There is no difference between practice and personal life. My life itself is art.
Discover the life and insights of many more African artists in Aworanka's Interview section: