GERALD CHUKWUMA

Background

Gerald Chukwuma is a celebrated Nigerian artist with an increasingly international presence and following. His parents were not enthusiastic to see their son follow a creative career, but Gerald could not be stopped and managed to finance his livelihood and university fees in order to study fine art. He graduated from the prestigious Nsukka Art School , University of Nigeria, with first class degree specializing in painting.

Chukwuma enjoys working on a bigger scale than many other artists, presenting bold statements with his works created from wood and mostly recycled objects.

He bridges the gap from traditional Uli and Nsibidi symbolism to contemporary abstraction with ease, developing his very own visual language and impact.

The combination of infinite creativity with detailed craftsmanship offers an irresistible visual feast.

In 2008 and 2012 he emerged as one of the top 3 winners of the prestigious National Arts Competition, he featured on cable news network, CNN’s inside Africa programme – showcasing his unique artworks in 2011, in 2014 , the University of Nigeria commissioned him to produce pieces for the Art School. In 2017 he was commissioned to produce a monumental Ootdoor piece by the Lagos State government.

Chukwuma has taken part in aprox. 20 exhibitions in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Turkey and the United States. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and 3 children.

Statement

I never use one wood for one work. It is like a piano.
They all have their notes.

Selected Works

Press

GERALD CHUKWUMA | True Africa, article by Dayna Mahannah, 2017

In neon orange shorts, Gerald Chukwuma approaches me, smiling, beneath the glittering chandeliers in the lounge of Accra’s dazzling Kempinski Hotel. It is Friday, 21 April, and tonight marks the opening reception of his exhibition Standing Ovation, at Gallery 1957, which is housed in the hotel. The collection of new works explores the landscape of migration with his signature standout pieces of carved wood, paint and scrap materials. The party that evening is busy; it is one of Chukwuma’s first solo shows outside his home base of Lagos, Nigeria. ‘His work is actually very relatable,’ Yesha Puplampu, Gallery 1957’s manager, adds. ‘In his work he talks about his life and his struggle, and everyone has their own version of it.’ The exhibition, in Gallery 1957’s intimate space, is like walking into a sparkling treasure trove. The sheer size and detail of his pieces will root you to the spot, examining the handiwork. The painstaking processes of carving, burning, and nailing on tiny pieces of aluminium juxtaposed within such an imaginative, abstract melody of images exude Gerald’s sense of humour and a carefree darkness. Old mobile charge cards and empty soft drink cans often find their way into his pieces. The artist explains that he ‘upcycles’ because of the lack of recycling in Nigeria. ‘They’re beautiful, they’re durable, and they’ve got
colours,’ Chukwuma says. ‘They’re like a palette for me.’
After two years, without telling his parents, he dropped out of marketing and enrolled himself in University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to study art. ‘That was really tough,’ Chukwuma remembers. ‘I couldn’t ask for school fees, they didn’t know where I was, I couldn’t tell them about anything.’ Rebellion does not come cheap for a student in Nigeria. School fees are expensive. But Chukwuma hawked, selling goods in the street to make whatever cash he could.
‘It was tough, but I loved this art. There’s nothing else that makes me happier. My life is art.’ In Nsukka, Chukwuma lived underneath a tree so that he could afford an education. ‘I used to uproot cassava and roast it over fire in the bush just to have something to eat.  I didn’t have money! I had to pay my school fees.’ The artist’s eyes are wide behind his spectacles as he tells me his story, his body leans forward in the chair and his hands are engaged in his tale as he walks me through his memories. His past difficulties are told with humour; it makes me wonder if success has given him this attitude, or if optimism is a natural trait.

Chukwuma admits that, despite the risks that faced him as he jumped on his path to the art world, fear never entered his mind: ‘The first day at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, I was just glad that I was finally a professional artist. I knew what I loved and I moved on.’ Two lecturers during his time in Nsukka had a profound impression on him as an artist, and Chukwuma credits their unwavering support for building his confidence in his subliminal processes. ‘Inspiration, for me, comes from everywhere. The best works that I’ve done, I didn’t think about them.’ His works always begin without a sketch. ‘I don’t think art should be organised because thoughts are not organised. They erupt like a volcano. You cannot tell the lava where to go. ’ You can sense duality: There are two Geralds – the artist and the observer – impatiently waiting to see the outcome.
I don’t know what will happen.’ Standing in front of the works in the gallery, he tells me he finds it difficult to let go. ‘I have found that every time I finish a work, a part of me leaves me. That’s why sometimes I don’t like to sell my work. They’re like children,’ he explains. ‘I give birth to them. It’s mixed feelings. I feel also that they should get married, because they shouldn’t live with me. But I feel sad that they want to get married.’ Gerald believes no good artist is truly satisfied. ‘If you get contented, you’re probably not in it for art,’ he says. ‘It would end. Art cannot finish.’ ‘My parents didn’t know what art was. They wanted me to be a doctor or engineer or fly a plane,’ Gerald says. ‘But I fly my plane now. You know how I fly my plane? I get a piece of wood and I carve it, and I get into it and I fly.

I create my future.’

 

 

Exhibitions at ODA

MOON DANCE

exhibition opening 27 October 2018

Video

Vision Statement

“Our ethos is consistent: promote this generation of artists from the African continent, nurture talent & surprise collectors by innovative exhibitions, unprecedented professionality and quality.”

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