Header image: Omoyeni Arogunmati, "Expectation 1", 2021. Marker, oil stick, acrylic on canvas. 62 x 92 cm.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Many artists create works based on what matters to them most. Omoyeni Arogunmati is no different. A self-taught artist, her exressive, abstract paintings are inspired by the African women she sees around her. I wanted to find out a little more about her and her works, and I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Omoyeni herself.
Hi Omoyeni, thanks for giving me a little bit of your time, Omoyeni. Let’s get this interview started. First of all, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Omoyeni Racheal Arogunmati. I'm a self-taught visual artist, born and raised in Nigeria. I studied Fine Art at the Polytechnic of Ibadan. I'm currently living in Ibadan Oyo State, where I’m staying with my mum and sister.
I want to start at the beginning if it’s alright with you. In your earliest memory, what was the first thing that inspired you to make art?
Art has always been a big part of my life since I was young. I don't know, but as a child, I used to draw a lot. I think I'm a natural-born artist, born with this gift in my hand. I never studied art itself in any way back then. Since l was a child, I have enjoyed drawing. l remember drawing as early as the age of 4 years.
Throughout my childhood l was always creative, I would spend hours drawing or cutting empty cartons to create slipper, house, shoe, bag, and so on. When people saw my creations, they were surprised! I felt honored, acknowledged, and appreciated by their reactions. I just wanted to keep that feeling going.
A lot of people started drawing at an early age but never took it further than that. Why did you choose to pursue art?
I choose to be an artist because l was looking for a new way to express myself through the arts. After I graduated from the higher institution, I realized that I wanted to devote myself to art. For about six years now, I've been living my life as an artist.
Who or What is your biggest Inspiration/Influence?
While I have been influenced by many people, most of them come from different styles and works. Of course, l will always admire the work of Carlos Delgado, a Colombian-Canadian Artist. His work has been an imaginative influence on me. I have watched his videos since 2017 and his methods and instructions have had a major influence on my work.
I'm inspired by many current artists who can show beauty, light, and emotion in their paintings. The major elements that influence my work are inspiration, vision, and my ability. I also find inspiration in my other passion and my research.
Just about everything influences my artwork, how I feel that particular day may influence the color I choose. And then there are times that something just speaks to me… An occasion, a happening, something emotional.
Sometimes my inspiration isn't clear to me until after I've made the work itself. I just need to work it out or express my feelings about it and my art helps me discover what it is that I’m feeling.
You have a lot of inspiration to pull from! Can you tell me a little bit about your creative process?
As I mentioned, my practice is very research-based. The process in creating my artwork, to put it simply, is through drawing. I do a lot of sketches. I take my sketches to the canvas as part of a magical experience. From there, I try to create a sort of creative flow, so I start putting my acrylic or oil on canvas.
When I start an abstract or portrait painting, there are no rules. Sometimes I know what I'm going to do. Most time I do everything by memory at a later stage. I like being surprised by what comes out. You don't know where you are going.
My art is colorful and celebrates the Explorer in all women. I want it to express a woman’s mood or even a feeling in a lyrical way with color and choose from a wide range of emotions.
What kind of work are you making now and what kind of work do you want to be making in the future?
I'm currently working on a new body of Portrait Composition Series for the World Art Dubai Art Fair Exhibition 2021. It’s very exciting!
At this time, I'm also preparing a new series of portraits of women for a future exhibition. I’ve been enjoying drawing and painting with a palette knife. Other than that, l also continue to paint works with themes that include part of my own life and women issues.
In a way, I'm preparing materials for future, potential exhibitions. I would like to one day have my solo exhibition, and I’m looking for a partnership to do that with.
You speak a lot about women’s issues in your paintings. What do you think is an artist’s role in society?
The role of artists in society today is to be whatever the world needs them to be. Creating and consuming art give us hope. It is an agent of change. It is a mirror to society. When the world feels unjust, art gives us the freedom to push back.
A great answer that I wholeheartedly agree with. With that in mind, how do you wish to be remembered in the world, as an artist or otherwise?
Oh, I just want the world to know about me and my art.
I would like to be remembered for my talent in the field of Art. Otherwise, I would like to be remembered as a person who is kind and accepted the responsibility that is required by freedom.
Thank you once again for your time with us. Do you have any future projects or exhibitions we should be on the lookout for?
Unfortunately, some projects were canceled or postponed because of the pandemic. However, two of my work were shown at the online art exhibition "New Transformation" a beautifully curated group exhibition by IAVPOA in Kaunas-Lithuania.
Certainly this year, in March and April, I have two international art exhibitions in Dubai. The first is the World Art Dubai Art Fair 2021 and the second is the "Deus Ex Femina" Group Exhibition organized by Akka Project and curated by Lidija in Dubai.
I look forward to them and I'm hoping that this year will be as creative as ever.
Check out more of Omoyeni’s works on her Instagram.