When this blog was created there was this vision to have interviews and profiles of various artists in Nigeria and Africa. Well vision is one thing, actually pulling it off is another. We did have the interview with Segun Aiyesan but sadly that was just it for years. This year is going to be different and our first post of the year is an interview with the artist Michael Kpodoh. Hope you find it interesting.
What’s your approach to your art: do you create for you, or for your audience?
I normally paint for myself first because art is usually a dialogue between the conscious and the subconscious. I paint to satisfy myself. That’s what I do. I paint to create a picture. I’m just one of those lucky artists that some of our audience sees our work then likes it and buys it. So I paint basically for me.
Are you self-taught or did you study at an art school?
I studied art in school. Although in the beginning I started painting early on and discovered I had the talent. I used to go to a place where as little kids we would gather and draw.
After secondary school my mum saw that I was very good in arts and she tried to enroll me as an apprentice with a graphics artist close to where we were staying. Then I met a friend working in a graphics shop and I joined him. After working there for a while my boss said I just needed to go to school and do this. Back in secondary school I was on the commercial stream and not the arts one. So he was just telling me to take up arts because of my wonderful talent.
I studied arts in school, at Auchi Polytechnic, which is one of the schools famous for arts in Nigeria. I graduated as the best arts students in two different years, 2001 and 2004.
So will you advise someone to go to arts school?
Yes, yes, yes. It’s necessary we get the certificate because whenever you want to do an exhibition you need to write your profile and you need to state the school you went to. Moreover when you want to join some professional arts associations you need to be an educated artist (graduate) to join these bodies.
What has inspired your work in the past? What currently inspires your work?
I used to go through art catalogues and look at works of some masters like Olaku, Sam Oviriti, Kolade Osinowo, and I get inspired like “oh this wonderful work, If I can paint to this level or get past this stage.”
I get inspired by my last work because every last work produces a new one. Art for me is a process and I enjoy the process than the product.
Whenever I’m creating art I discover a new thing and I get inspired by it.
Activities around me inspires me too. As artists we observe. I hear people talk about maybe politics, I put that in my painting. I hear people talk about religion, I put that in my painting. Things around me, my environment, they inspire me.
What about your approach to creating new work? For example do you exclude yourself from everyone else and just binge and churn out new work?
Art is more of an inner thing. Every artist should isolate himself for a good artwork to be produced. Most times I isolate myself. For example I have an open space where people can come and see me. In my house I still have a private place where I go into alone and sit down, not necessarily work but just meditate and inspiration will come. I can sit down in that studio and look at my old work and a new inspiration will come.
Most times I paint at night when I know there’s less distraction. So it’s just me. Maybe I’ll play some music and just paint. So as an artist it’s good to isolate oneself.
Does it ever become easy for you?
Art has been so easy for me because it’s what I enjoy doing so I don’t get tired doing it. I’ve been rewarded financially through my art.
I don’t get bored at any stage of creating art. I normally tell my boys that I’m an experimental artist. I don’t just paint one style, I don’t use only one medium. For example for one month I can just focus on pastel and two months later I can switch to oil. After that I go to acrylic, after that mixed media.
Aside the medium changing, the theme also keeps me going. For example I can choose to paint boats or fishermen for a particular while and then switch to painting a different theme.
Art for me has been easy for me because I don’t paint to please people. I paint to satisfy myself first so it’s something I enjoy doing. Art for me has always been easy.