Josh Egesi: ‘My parents were major motivations for me to study art’
Josh Egesi is a multimedia artist with a degree in Fine and Applied Arts from the University of Benin. Egesi is renowned for making the largest bottle cap portrait in Africa – an 11ft by 7ft portrait of his alma mater’s Vice-Chancellor. In this interview, he tells Adefoyeke Ajao about his works, as well as the challenges of being a young artist in Nigeria.
Who is Josh Egesi?
Josh Egesi is a multi-disciplinary artist who works with different media. I’m a multi-talented artist who has done different stuff: video directing; storyboarding; I’ve even worked with waste and I actually made the biggest bottle cover portrait in Africa that’s on record.
I’m like a voyager in the arts; I go where the wind takes me. I’ve done many different things in my career.
How and why did you become an artist?
I guess we were all born to be artists. Maybe not visual artists, but we were all born to be creative. Growing up, I enjoyed seeing my elder sister draw and I emulated her style of drawing. I loved her drawings, so I started practising and I also met friends in school that enjoyed drawing and we would always draw together. But then, my elder sister stopped drawing while I continued and my parents were very supportive of my gift. My late dad was actually going to buy me a canvas and paint – when I was in secondary school – for me to make his portrait, but then life happened [he passed away].
My parents were major motivations for me to study art, unlike some other people that will tell you that their parents weren’t in support and they had to go behind their parents while trying to make this art thing work for them. But mine was different, it’s actually a blessing because my parents supported me and kept me moving.
You describe yourself as a multimedia artist; out of all the media you use which is your favourite and why?
My favourite medium is creating. I don’t have a favourite medium, I just want to be creating and that’s my medium. Creativity is my medium.
If creativity is your medium, what’s your creative process and how do you prefer to work?
I don’t know if I have a creative process. I just start as it [inspiration] comes and if I don’t start, I let it go. But once the ideas come, I start working.
I can work from anywhere but it depends on what I am doing. If I am doing some other forms of art, there are different processes for the different things. My creative process depends on what I am doing.
What inspires you and your work? Are there other artists whose work you admire?
There are artists I admire. The people that inspire me are people that can actually do so many things and the things they can do are not killing them – they motivate me to work more. People like Ibe Ananaba, Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) – the guy can do so many things, he is a producer, an actor, a musician, he’s everything and he’s still not dead. So when I feel like this whole thing is overwhelming and I should probably just choose one of my talents and live with it, I just look back at people like Donald Glover, Tyler Perry and the rest of them and get going.
What challenges do you face as an artist working in Nigeria?
I think I am my major challenge; not doing what I am supposed to be doing as at when I am supposed to be doing it. But that’s my first major challenge, the other thing is the space I want to work from. I have big dreams of owning a studio apartment where I have a very high rooftop and just one big space, like a warehouse. Getting a space like that in Nigeria will cost you an arm and a leg but I am working towards it. So, studio space is another one of my major challenges.
Have you participated in any notable exhibitions?
I find it difficult to put out my work; I can just paint and keep my work.
I don’t know. My works are very personal and sometimes I just feel like I’m not doing what I want to put out – that’s strictly for my paintings though.
I’ve directed a music video (Timmy Knight’s cover of Khalid’s ‘Location’ song) and I’ve worked on storyboards for a movie that should be out this September (Sylvia, produced by TRINO Studios), but when it comes to paintings, I just hold back my paintings. I haven’t sold so many of my paintings; maybe I have sold about 5, but the rest are in my house.
Since you find it difficult to let go of your paintings, which one is your favourite?
I think I sold my favourite painting. It’s a series of Lagos vehicles I painted – Danfo, Keke, Kabukabu. One of them was even exhibited at Art X Lagos. I was exhibited as the Spotlight (I think that’s what they called it) as one of the young artists they selected to showcase their work.
Why is it your favourite?
I love the feel and it represents what I can do; I paint with oil as well as with watercolour. I love watercolour paintings, as watercolour is one of my favourite mediums. I love the painting so much because it has the feel of oil and watercolour at the same time; it’s like what Ibe Ananaba does. If you’ve seen Ibe Ananaba’s paintings, they are very sweet to look at. They are oil paintings but they look like watercolour.
As an artist, what is the best advice that you have received and what would you give to aspiring artists?
Just keep working, never stop. There’s no bad work. It’s a process.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I probably would have been a ‘Creative Engineer’. I’ve also done some engineering jobs this year. I was contracted by an architecture company to make ‘burglar art’.
What are you currently working on and what should we expect from you in the future?
Right now, I’m actually going back to sustainability; helping people live a sustainable life. I am a very innovative person; I can look at trash and see something beautiful. I have a project that I will be working on very soon, I’ll be going to different slums and transforming their houses because I believe the kind of house you come out from influences your day, as well as your output and productivity levels. If you come out from a very colourful house, you would, without doubt, be a colourful person.
To see more of Josh Egesi’s Art, visit his Art635 page or his Instagram profile @josh_egesi_art
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