Hello, Talku Talku people. It’s another week of celebrating art and its creatives. We will be celebrating art through some of Izunna Dike’s works. Izunna was born in Gombe state and grew up in Warri. The budding artist studied architecture in the UK but has chosen to pursue his dream of being an artist – an African-oriented artist at that. Izunna Dike’s Pan African ideology is focused on the progress and prosperity of the African people and its diaspora.
How would you describe your art?
Initially I described this as lucid something unrealistic. Perhaps, what you see under the influence of substances, I find surrealism or African surrealism interesting. I would say I’ve graduated into contemporary art. I’m still finding my feet in my art, my art is quite diverse and colourful. I always try to pass across a vital message about our society within it.
What attracted you to go into your style of art?
My motivation is Pan Africanism, being someone who has a passion for speaking about the continent, my art had to speak for me. It’s just a different medium. Contemporary African art is a very diverse movement. I had to try and see how well and where I could fit in, it’s the art style of our time.
How did your journey as an artist begin?
Since I was a child, I could draw. I remember when I was four and when I draw, I’ll take steps backwards to appreciate my art and see flaws in it. I still do this today and it works for me. At four, I would turn my work upside down and if it looks good upsidedown I know it was good, of course, I don’t do that anymore, nevertheless always a precious memory.
As I grew, in school I always noticed Art was a subject that came naturally to me, I never struggled with Art, I used to represent my ‘house’ in school art competitions; still life, craft, etc. My dad also noticed I loved to mould with clay and he always brought me clay. I remember moulding the World Cup during the 2006 World Cup.
My teachers encouraged me to chase an art career but I never looked that way because honestly, my science grades were doing quite well. I enjoyed biology and I wanted to be a doctor so, I snapped out of that desire and chose architecture which was the closest thing to art. I felt choosing that career path guaranteed that I would make a good living out of it.
I thought Artists were poor and only a few make something of being artists. Time went on and my eyes opened to my potential that I was wasting as an architectural designer. I am very artistic with my designs so, I decided to switch to Art in 2019 after I left my job. That is where my journey truly started.
What was your first piece and what was it like working on it?
My first piece was inspired by a photograph I took of school children in Lagos. I have an eye for photography so I decided to paint this photograph to expand its meanings and interpretations. It was a struggle honestly – I was lost and I was trying to paint like a professional with only secondary school level education.
I was rusty and clueless. It didn’t occur to me to seek help from the internet with tutorials on what I was doing. When I finished, I knew it was good for a start, I learnt to be proud of it.
How challenging has the journey been?
To be fair, my journey hasn’t really been challenging but that’s really because the biggest challenge was my expectations. I was aware of what I wanted. So far, I’ve exceeded my expectations seeing as my work has improved and my work has gained recognition.
The only challenge is, perhaps, funds. Art supplies are expensive but I’m patient because I know in due time, I’ll make enough money to buy the materials I want for myself. The real challenge is prizing, as much as my work is practically cheap in the real art market, as a starting artist. I worry I won’t sell my art if I raise the price because honestly most of my buyers are young people. The price has to be reasonable but I try to be conscious not to underprice my works.
What inspired ‘Black Girl Joy’?
‘Black Girl Joy’ was in line with my appreciation for black women and as an aspiring father of a black girl. The black girl in the media and reality is often portrayed with struggles of under-appreciation and discrimination.
‘Black Girl Joy’ is an art to celebrate the black girl child in freedom and happiness having a very enjoyable life with the little things like the appreciation of the hair types. Afro, permed, and braided all features in the painting. This art piece is to celebrate the black girl and what makes them happy and carefree just like what Beyoncé did with brown skin girl.
What challenges did you encounter working on this piece?
The challenges weren’t much, honestly, because I had a preconceived image of what I wanted in my mind. The bubbles were quite tricky to execute but of course, I pulled it off really well. To my credit, finding a reference image of a black girl blowing bubbles at that angle was impossible and I had to improvise with a pale skin reference image while trying to execute black facial features. It was the biggest challenge but in the end, I believe I triumphed.
What inspires your art generally?
Society really inspires me. I love Pan Africanism and I draw my inspiration from that. My pan Africanism has to speak directly or indirectly into my art. Social issues are my main inspiration but I don’t restrict myself to that. This is not exactly evident in majority of my works but coming works would represent that more.
What is the most challenging piece you have worked on so far and why?
‘The Lagos Scene’ is a piece I think has been the most challenging. Painting the cathedral at CMS, a very busy location in Lagos, was quite challenging. But it took a really long time because of the little details that go into making such a masterpiece building in the landscape. It’s the most photographed church in Lagos – I suspect – and I like that every detail had to go in. That’s also the best part.
What would you say your greatest challenge as an artist is?
My greatest challenge as an artist would be, as I said before, financing my art supply. Inspirations are surplus but time management and art supply can be a bit difficult to source if you’re just starting.
What is your favorite part of being an artist?
Going to bed and waking up to visualize my imagination, the suspense, and the cluelessness of what the end result would look like is thrilling. That’s the best part – looking at the finished work in awe the next day is a close second, amazing feeling of pride. People appreciating your work is the icing on the cake.
What is that advice that you got that has stuck with you till now?
“It’s not what you do that takes you far, it’s what God gave you that takes you far” – Steve Harvey. “Be inspired by your surrounding; look around you; do what you want, there is no bad or good art. Express yourself to the fullest and capitalize on your interests” – an art dealer I met at an art gallery.