GERALD CHUKWUMA, Nigeria

Gerald Chukwuma in his studio

Gerald Chukwuma


Gerald Chukwuma is a celebrated Nigerian artist with an increasingly international presence and following. His parents were not enthusiastic to see their son follow a creative career, but Gerald could not be stopped and managed to finance his livelihood and university fees in order to study fine art. He graduated from the prestigious Nsukka Art School , University of Nigeria, with first class degree specializing in painting.

Chukwuma enjoys working on a bigger scale than many other artists, presenting bold statements with his works created from wood and mostly recycled objects.

He bridges the gap from traditional Uli and Nsibidi symbolism to contemporary abstraction with ease, developing his very own visual language and impact.

The combination of infinite creativity with detailed craftsmanship offers an irresistible visual feast.

In 2008 and 2012 he emerged as one of the top 3 winners of the prestigious National Arts Competition, he featured on cable news network, CNN’s inside Africa programme – showcasing his unique artworks in 2011, in 2014 , the University of Nigeria commissioned him to produce pieces for the Art School. In 2017 he was commissioned to produce a monumental Ootdoor piece by the Lagos State government.

Chukwuma has taken part in aprox. 20 exhibitions in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Turkey and the United States. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and 3 children.


Artist Statement


My art makes bold statements, I never use one wood for one work. It is like a piano.

They all have their notes.


Art for sale online



Press


GERALD CHUKWUMA | True Africa, article by Dayna Mahannah, 2017

In neon orange shorts, Gerald Chukwuma approaches me, smiling, beneath the glittering chandeliers in the lounge of Accra’s dazzling Kempinski Hotel. It is Friday, 21 April, and tonight marks the opening reception of his exhibition Standing Ovation, at Gallery 1957, which is housed in the hotel. The collection of new works explores the landscape of migration with his signature standout pieces of carved wood, paint and scrap materials. The party that evening is busy; it is one of Chukwuma’s first solo shows outside his home base of Lagos, Nigeria.

‘His work is actually very relatable,’ Yesha Puplampu, Gallery 1957’s manager, adds. ‘In his work he talks about his life and his struggle, and everyone has their own version of it.’ The exhibition, in Gallery 1957’s intimate space, is like walking into a sparkling treasure trove. The sheer size and detail of his pieces will root you to the spot, examining the handiwork. The painstaking processes of carving, burning, and nailing on tiny pieces of aluminium juxtaposed within such an imaginative, abstract melody of images exude Gerald’s sense of humour and a carefree darkness. Old mobile charge cards and empty soft drink cans often find their way into his pieces. The artist explains that he ‘upcycles’ because of the lack of recycling in Nigeria. ‘They’re beautiful, they’re durable, and they’ve got colours,’ Chukwuma says. ‘They’re like a palette for me.’After two years, without telling his parents, he dropped out of marketing and enrolled himself in University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to study art. ‘That was really tough,’ Chukwuma remembers. ‘I couldn’t ask for school fees, they didn’t know where I was, I couldn’t tell them about anything.’ Rebellion does not come cheap for a student in Nigeria. School fees are expensive. But Chukwuma hawked, selling goods in the street to make whatever cash he could.‘It was tough, but I loved this art. There’s nothing else that makes me happier. My life is art.’

In Nsukka, Chukwuma lived underneath a tree so that he could afford an education. ‘I used to uproot cassava and roast it over fire in the bush just to have something to eat.  I didn’t have money! I had to pay my school fees.’ The artist’s eyes are wide behind his spectacles as he tells me his story, his body leans forward in the chair and his hands are engaged in his tale as he walks me through his memories. His past difficulties are told with humour; it makes me wonder if success has given him this attitude, or if optimism is a natural trait.Chukwuma admits that, despite the risks that faced him as he jumped on his path to the art world, fear never entered his mind: ‘The first day at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, I was just glad that I was finally a professional artist. I knew what I loved and I moved on.’ Two lecturers during his time in Nsukka had a profound impression on him as an artist, and Chukwuma credits their unwavering support for building his confidence in his subliminal processes. 

‘Inspiration, for me, comes from everywhere. The best works that I’ve done, I didn’t think about them.’ His works always begin without a sketch. ‘I don’t think art should be organised because thoughts are not organised. They erupt like a volcano. You cannot tell the lava where to go. ’ You can sense duality: There are two Geralds – the artist and the observer – impatiently waiting to see the outcome.I don’t know what will happen.’ Standing in front of the works in the gallery, he tells me he finds it difficult to let go. ‘I have found that every time I finish a work, a part of me leaves me. That’s why sometimes I don’t like to sell my work. They’re like children,’ he explains. ‘I give birth to them. It’s mixed feelings. I feel also that they should get married, because they shouldn’t live with me. But I feel sad that they want to get married.’ Gerald believes no good artist is truly satisfied. ‘If you get contented, you’re probably not in it for art,’ he says. ‘It would end. Art cannot finish.’ ‘My parents didn’t know what art was. They wanted me to be a doctor or engineer or fly a plane,’ Gerald says. ‘But I fly my plane now. You know how I fly my plane? I get a piece of wood and I carve it, and I get into it and I fly. I create my future.’


Selected Exhibitions | Nigeria


2016 “ART X LAGOS”, Art Fair, Civic Center, Lagos
2016 “PEOPLE’S PARADISE “, solo exhibition, Temple Muse, Lagos
2015 “ESSENTIALS”, group exhibition, Alexis Galleries, Lagos
2015 “THE CONTEMPORARIES”, group exhibition, The Wheatbeaker, Lagos
2015 “TODAY IN HISTORY”, group exhibition, Thought Pyramid Art Center, Abuja
2014 “SOAKING UP BEAUTY”, solo exhibition, Constant Capital, Lagos
2013 “HIGHLIFE “II”, exhibition of design & art, Ethnocentric, Lagos
2012 “MUSIC LESSON”, solo exhibition, Alexis Gallery, Lagos
2011 “HIGHLIFE I”, exhibition of design & art, Ethnocentric, Lagos
2010 “PACHAKUCHA: INSPIRE JAPAN”, video art exhibition, Terra Kulture, Lagos
2009 “RECLAIMING AFRICA”, solo exhibition, Goethe Institute, Lagos
2009 “IN PURSUIT OF KNOWLEDGE”, group exhibition, Civic Center, Lagos
2008 “MOVING MATTER”, group exhibition, Pan African University, Lagos
2006 “WITH A HUMAN FACE”, group exhibition, Pan African University, Lagos
2004 “SALT OF THE EARTH”, group exhibition, Alliance Francaise, Enugu
2003 “AWAKENED INSTINCTS”, group exhibition, Nimbus Art Center, Lagos
2001 “ECHOES, CITIES AND ARTIST IN NIGERIA”, group exhibition, Museum of the
Institute of African Studies, Ibadan, Nigeria

Selected International Exhibitions

2020 1:54 AFRICAN ART FAIR, New York

2019 1:54 AFRICAN ART FAIR, London

2019 “WRINKLES”, solo show, London, Uk

2018 “MOON DANCE”, solo show, ART Franschhoek, ODA, South Africa

2017 “CONTEMPORARY ISTANBUL”, Art Fair, Istanbul, Turkey

2017 “STANDING OVATION”, solo show, Gallery 1957, Accra, Ghana

2010 “HEDEN DAAGSE AFRIKAANSE KUNST”, group exhibition, Amsterdam,
Netherlands

2009 “AFRICA NOW”, group exhibition, The World Bank, USA

2009 “MODERNE AFRIKANSK KUNST, group exhibition, Center for Culture &
Development, DENMARK

2008 “THE UNBREAKABLE NIGERIAN SPIRIT”, group exhibition, Galerie 23, Amsterdam,
Netherlands