My visual art practice is driven by passion – Zinno Orara

Zinno Orara, one of Nigeria’s pre-eminent studio artists celebrates his 30th anniversary with a solo exhibition at Terra Kulture from November 16 to 25th, 2019. Proceeding under the theme, “STANDING TALL” the exhibition showcases works that are representative of his creative oeuvre. caught up with the artist recently during which he spoke about the exhibition, his practice and creative predilection. Excerpts.

The Lagos Review: When is the exhibition?

Zinno Orara: November 16th to 25th, 2019 at Terra Kulture.

TLR: What is the theme of the exhibition and how many paintings will be on show?

ZA: The theme is “STANDING TALL” and there will be 45 works on display.

TL: You seem to have an affinity for November. Your last solo show was in November 2017. Why November?

ZA: November is significant for me. I was born on November, 17th. Coincidentally, this exhibition is a celebration of my 30th Anniversary as a Studio Artist.

TLR: You left school and instead of teaching or advertising became a studio artist. How many other artists have done that in Nigeria and why did you choose that path?

ZA: Most Art Graduates in the 80’s and 90’s either taught or worked in Advertising Agencies. Others worked with publishing houses as Cartoonists or Illustrators. I was among the first generation of Artists that dared Studio practice…. It was just passion driven!

TLR: Why are you in love with jute bags? They remain a defining feature of your works?

ZA: Jute bags??? I love textures. They give me an even texture that tickle my fancy. The textures I get from jute bags take me to realms that canvases will never reach

TLR: You like to say textured surfaces. I prefer the term mixed media. Why do you favour this stylistic approach?

ZA: Textures are beautiful. A world without textures will be very boring. Image being on a fast lane, we need a bit of bumps to slow us down…. Textures fascinate me.

TLR: The female form is a staple for artists but in your own practice you rarely present the female form from a sensual perspective. Your female subjects are either nurturing, empathetic or reflective  as we see in “Deep thots, Deep impression” which is reflective or “Friends even at sunset” which shows friendship and empathy?

ZA: The woman is the most beautiful creature created by God Almighty. I see beyond the lips, the hips and the finger tips. I see beyond the beautiful curves. We must respect women. We must treat them right. We must adore women…

TLR: Blue and yellow with sprinklings of brown predominate in your works. Is this a conscious preference and if yes why?

ZA: Colour is my major medium of expression. Every mood can be expressed with colours. My use of colours is dependent on theme and mood. Colour is like sound. Art is like music… They are languages accepted universally

TLR: Your style has not changed radically since the 90s. Is this self-belief or an unwillingness to be experimental?

ZA: If there’s no connection between my works of yesterday and those of today, then there’s a problem… There must be a connection or link even when we metamorphose from one stage to another… Great things don’t change. They just get better and better.

TLR: Your works in this exhibition are not limited to a certain style or visual language. There are impressionist paintings like “They had to leave with” its interplay of light and colours. There are also landscape and almost hyper-realistic paintings like “Pathway to greatness”. Why the eclectic approach?

ZA: I’m more concerned about my message. The message determines my approach. I’m just a vessel. A channel of communication. All Artists have the same materials. Our personalities make the difference in our works.

TLR: There is a hazy quality which defines much of your paintings. One is never sure whether it is sunset or sunrise. This quality makes the viewer want to peer closer and engage. Is this deliberate and why?

ZA: Every great Art must engage the viewer. Every great Art must ask questions. Every great Art must answer questions. There’s so much happening around us. Let’s talk, write, sing and paint…. Let’s tell ourselves some bitter truths!!!

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