Oko Chijioke is an experimental artist who works in different media and with different styles include murals. He believes his art is a potent tool for positive change and aims at using it to heal, educate and stimulate fun in the viewer.
Oko Chijioke holds B.Sc. in Human Physiology where he graduated as the class valedictorian. He is a fellow of African Changemakers (ACi) and Alumnus of Young African leaders initiative (YALI). He is also the founder of Hartfrica Designs Nig.
Hello Oko! Tell us a few words about yourself. What does a typical day look? Do you just do art, or is art just part of the picture?
Oko: I am Oko Chijioke a Nigerian Entrepreneur and an art in medicine enthusiast. I often have my day well scheduled, from work-out to self meditation before rolling my sleeves to work. I also create some time out for family and friends and a little me time. During the day, I focus mostly on managing a business I founded and during most nights/weekends I focus on art. Arts is not just part of the picture but the picture, because my organization is a space painting and mural company. I also spend time reading books, journals and surfing through net for inspiration, content and fun relating to arts.
What artists of the past or present have inspired you?
Oko: In Africa, I am particularly inspired by the works of Ben Enwonwu whose unique style depicts the beauty of African culture. Internationally, I am inspired by Vincent Van Gogh because of his consistency and how he channeled his expressions through art.
What motivates you as an artist? Is it curiosity, the search for beauty or meaning?
Oko: Curiosity, beauty and meaning motivate me but the search for meaning motivates me the most. The way a piece of art can affect the mindset of the viewer and even modify their lifestyle, inspires me to be more conscious of the kind of art I make. This also motivates me to invest a lot of time and resources into making a single work of art. I believe art is a potent tool for change and can be used to heal, educate and stimulate fun in the viewer and society.
You say your art is a potent tool for positive change and aims at using it to heal, educate and stimulate fun in the viewer. Is there a message you are trying to send with each piece?
Oko: Each piece of art I make has a message that it passes because I invest a lot of time in studying about the idea and generating the best way to communicate the message. This also drives me to experiment with different media and incoperate them in my art composition. The idea of the art will determine if it will be best done as a mural, mixed media, oil on canvas, graphite on wood, etc. an example is the Queen of Colours (mixed media: died twine on canvas) which portray the lifestyle of a popular lady that transforms ordinary things into exceptional master pieces. Another example is the Mural of Chadwick Bossman which reminds us how to always give our best regardless of our limitations.
Your art is very unique. Whats the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?
Oko: The most challenging part of making my art is in the research phase because I often feel like I have not uncovered enough information on how to properly pass the message intended for the art piece. There is also the challenge of finance because art making is expensive and lack of funds often limits the frequency at which I make art. The challenge of time is also a factor.
However, the research for my work of art is continuous and I often walk around with a tiny jotter to pen down the ideas and later connect them together. I support the financial aspect of making my artwork by running my business during the week. Then I try to balance the time I invest into my business with the time I allocate for my artwork. I fancy making my artwork over night because I focus more then.
What are some of the tools you use to create your distinct style of artwork?
Oko: I am an experimental artist hence I work with different tools. The tools I use most are brushes, canvas, wood, oil paints, pencils, plaster boards, fabric, knife and sketch books.
How has your style changed or evolved over the years?
Oko: My style can be described as dynamic. I used to work more with graphite on paper, then I evolved to graphite on wood, oil on canvas, murals, acrylic on fabric, sand on canvas and mixed media. The style of the artwork is determined by the message I want each art piece to communicate.
What are some of the stories behind your work?
Oko: Having a medical background I was deeply concerned by the psychological effects of what we feed our minds and how our minds shape us. Then also as an artist I realized that the type of art we have around us affects what happens to us. I therefore, tapped into that potential of art by using it to modify what happens to/around an individual with focus on the mind. The goal is to use arts in shaping the minds of people in the society to create sustainable development.
The stories behind my artwork are those of healing, education and information. My artworks also reflect my personality because the attention to details portrays my commitment and dedication to my art pieces.
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
Oko: Over the years, I have reached out to people that are interested in my art through exhibitions, online platforms (social media platforms, online adds), and through art promoting platforms. I am still exploring new ways to aid reach my target market.
What are you currently working on?
Oko: I am currently working on an art project that addresses the challenges we face in the society like drug abuses and youth violence. And also working on running community projects of revamping defaced community hospitals to help improve the health of people living in underdeveloped areas and also improve the work environment for health practitioners.
Whats next on the horizon for Oko?
Oko: I have a huge plan lined up as it relates arts in Africa to help tell our stories and change the narrative. I also hope to collaborate more with great artists and create a platform for youths to be gainfully engaged in their society by harnessing whatever positive talent they have especially arts. Finally, I plan to work more on my company and mould it to be the best painting and mural company in Africa and beyond.
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