Oscar Ukonu, Is a Nigerian visual artist who works under the genre of hyperrealism. He is an Architecture graduate who is currently living in Lagos, Nigeria. Ukonu started drawing at a very young age and has experimented in other forms of art since then.
This included paintings, sculptures and photography. It is through these experimental stages his art has evolved in to the masterpieces he creates today. Ukonu actively started drawing in 2014 whilst he was in architecture school.
Ukonu works with mediums other than ballpoint pens and paper. He has used graphite, colour pencils, acrylic paint and pastels to. But how does he get his ballpoint pen drawings to look so realistic? His technique of working with a ballpoint pen is to create a juxtaposition of lines to a point of abstracted details. This involves the use of hatching, crosshatching, and scribbling; Making lines is an important element in his work.
It was also the high cost of materials needed to draw using graphite pencils, that led Ukonu to settle with his pen instead. The cost was low, and it allowed him to be more flexible which then led to him to pick up different hyper-realistic rendering skills. It takes him approximately 200 hours to finish a medium sized piece, and this is only the time he spends on the drawing board.
The majority of his work is based on personal references and are most times visual representations of a past event, thought, or moment recorded in his personal diary. However, he does not go form a thought straight to a drawing board. Before executing any piece, he first writes and sketches the narrative and creative direction of that piece down in his diary. This helps him connect with the narrative at a personal level, and also to help develop a visual dialogue to guide the composition of the reference photographs.
Ukonu takes about 20 reference shots, mostly choosing family members and close friends as subjects. Once the pictures are taken, it takes about a week before he makes the final decision of which reference to use. After this he studies the selected reference for about a week or two before putting pen to paper. He works on average, 8 hours a day across 30 days to complete a piece. During this period of interaction with the work, he always revisits his narrative for the piece as it unveils itself to him. It is mainly, during this process where he names his pieces.
He finds his art gives him a platform to express his feelings and gives him a voice. Since his childhood, he has always felt more freedom when has was expressing himself through art and said that he found words very limiting as a form of expression.
“I found out early that I process the society and the physical world around me in pictures, and every time I create a piece, I sign them off as I would sign off a letter, as a form of feedback.”
Ukonu finds the idea of human individuality very fascinating; Including the phenomenon of entity, the essence and all the complexities that makes people unique spirits. This is often the inspiration behind his work. He also finds inspiration in the works of other artists whose works sometimes outside his own discourse. He uses this as a way of experimenting and testing new waters.
Most of his work is centred around black identity, through a perspective of both cultural and personal references. With every piece, he tries to communicate a certain mood or feeling of black aesthetics and individuality to people who are looking at his art.
As part of his existential experience as an artist, sharing every bit of his identity with the world has become his “overpowering aspiration.” He said he always looks forward to having his art shown in galleries and museums around the world. He says that this gives viewers, visual dialogues of a history of black individual, his significance, and contribution.
He has sold a couple of his works in the past, both directly to consumers and through galleries. He also networks with professionals in the artworld, ranging from artists, curators, gallerists and collectors to collaborate with too.
“My goal in life to live out a life of full artistic expression and be one of the most influential in the history of black art history”