Artist Nengi Omuku Paints Portraits on Traditional Nigerian Textiles. See Inside Her Lagos Studio Here

Gerard Ortiz

Nigerian artist Nengi Omuku has been hard at work in her studio preparing for her initially solo exhibition in London. 

The exhibit, titled “Parables of Pleasure,” will open up June 10 at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, which recently added the artist to its roster in London. (Omouku is co-represented by Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery.)

Employing oil paint on stitched-jointly parts of sanyan—a common Nigerian cloth applied for draped clothing—Omuku generates ethereal scenes of obscured figures in motion. Featureless, they get on the part of the chorus in Greek theater, and draw on themes related to the artist’s cultural heritage, race, and private identity.

The artist’s inspirations change from pictures taken from the Nigerian push, as well as influences from mother nature, as she labored as a florist and horticulturalist under her mother. Her newest works react to the earlier two several years of the pandemic and lockdowns, and attempts to reconnect with the all-natural world, blurring the boundaries amongst bodies and their natural environment.

We caught up with Omuku at her studio in Lagos, Nigeria, about her trusty palette knives, what’s on her playlist, and the lengthy walks in nature that assistance her get shifting when she feels caught.

Nengi Omuku, Flux (2022). Courtesy the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London. © Nengi Omuku 2022.

Can you send us a snap of the most indispensable merchandise(s) in your studio and inform us why you just can’t reside with out it?

I’m pretty connected to all my palette knives but there is a single in specific I’ve experienced it for about 5 years and I get definitely nervous when I misplace it. it is a little worn out, and is held alongside one another by duct tape, but it continue to performs like a dream!

Palette Knife. I cannot do without the one wrapped in duct tape. It’s the only one I have that’s lasted so long.

Palette knife. I can’t do without the need of the 1 wrapped in duct tape. It’s the only one I
have that’s lasted so long. Courtesy of Nengi Omuku.

What is a studio task on your agenda this week that you are most searching ahead to?

Cleaning! It is been an rigorous period of time getting ready for the show so I’m looking ahead to getting the studio deep cleaned just before I go in yet again. 

The wall. I usually prime the sanyan against a wall covered in tarp. When the primer se eps through it leaves these braille - like markings, I spend a lot of time looking at this wall.

The wall. I ordinarily prime the sanyan in opposition to a wall covered in tarp. When the primer
seeps through it leaves these braille-like markings, I spend a good deal of time looking at
this wall. Courtesy of Nengi Omuku.

What kind of ambiance do you want when you operate? Do you hear to songs or podcasts, or do you choose silence? Why?

I constantly pay attention to tunes. There’s a whole vary from Afro beats to techno and gospel music. It totally depends on how fantastic, or bad, it’s going in the studio. If there is no audio, I’m unquestionably getting an off working day.

Research corner. This is the safe and soft corner, the only part of the studio not covered in tarp and paint! I usually have lunch and dinner here. I come here to read as well.

Investigate corner. This is the risk-free and comfortable corner, the only component of the studio not
coated in tarp and paint! I generally have lunch and dinner right here. I occur below to examine as very well. Courtesy of Nengi Omuku.

Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to observe on social media suitable now?

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye—I saw her present at the Tate last 12 months and what struck me most was the convincing way in which she painted significant parts with the shade white. The area normally appeared so powerful in-spite of the shade.

Wangechi Mutu—I’ve been inspired by her get the job done ever due to the fact I was in university, particularly the way in which she thinks about the body.

David Adjaye—I discover his exploration into earlier architectural feats in Africa inspiring, specially simply because they advise the way he thinks about built place these days.

The view from my window.

The see from my window. Courtesy of Nengi Omuku.

Is there a picture you can send out of your existing function in progress at the studio?

Kwadwo. Here is a picture of one of the unfinished paintings in my current show with Pippy Houldsworth Gallery.

Kwadwo. Here is a picture of a single of the unfinished paintings in my present demonstrate with
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery. Courtesy of Nengi Omuku.

When you really feel caught while planning for a exhibit, what do you do to get unstuck? 

I go for a stroll in mother nature or by the ocean. I uncover it calming and it will help me escape the minute I’m struggling with.

Evening walk. I go for a walk in a green space or by the ocean any time I feel stuck in the studio.

Evening wander. I go for a walk in a green space or by the ocean any time I really feel stuck in
the studio. Courtesy of Nengi Omuku.

What photographs or objects do you glimpse at when you get the job done? Share your look at from guiding the canvas or your desktop—wherever you spend the most time. 

I usually have sitters in the studio, and the sitters are usually pals or people I have close interactions with. For the duration of the pandemic, when I did not have as several studio visits, I put in a lot of time searching at press photographs and archival images from Nigeria. 

Nene. I have been so privileged to work with an incredible team. My studio manager Nene and my studio technician Olawale. Here’s a picture of Nene sitting for a painting.

Nene. I have been so privileged to work with an outstanding crew. My studio manager Nene and my studio technician Olawale. Here’s a photo of Nene sitting for a portray. Courtesy of Nengi Omuku.

What is the last exhibition you saw that produced an impression on you and why?

Jennifer Packer’s show at the Serpentine was seriously inspiring. I was blown absent by her draughtsmanship, mastery of coloration, and the free way she handled paint. An absolute 10/10.

“Nengi Omuku: Parables of Joy” is on see June 10 as a result of July 30 at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London.

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