JOHN MADU, Nigeria

John Madu in his artist studio in Nigeria
John Madu in his artist studio in Nigeria

John Madu | Up Close

John Madu (born in 1983) is a Nigerian multi-disciplinary artist born in Lagos, best known for his figurative symbolic style of paintings, usually along the lines of the complexity of identity, social behavior and the effects of cultural globalization on individualism. His work can be described as eclectic because of how he derives ideas, from a various range of influences and sources based on popular culture, African history, art history. and personal experiences. symbolism is usually evident in his work, with reoccurring iconography such as books, apples, and other recognizable items which convey a certain meaning in art, and act as metaphors to a subject.

John’s source of inspiration is from a variety of places, but can be narrowed down to a few things that inspire a major part of his art works, which could be current situations affecting society, be it political, social or just banal everyday life issues. Giving him opportunities and reason to record the history of his time, with the aid of resource materials such as magazines, books, social media, news and even real time situations. He believes the best kind of art is a reaction to certain issues of interest and divulging information to educate and also entertain.

With a in policy and strategic studies, John Madu has taught himself, how to follow a natural flow of research and idea development, exploring all possible concepts, until it is innovative and ready for high quality production, and above all to embrace his individual style, with a wide array of mediums such as acrylic paint, oil paint, spray paint, ink, burlap and collage. His multidisciplinary approach has guided his creative interest in design objects, sculpture, functional art, and even artistic fashion pieces. Madu’s art has been featured in contemporary art exhibitions locally and internationally he has collaborated with international brands such as DIESEL and Bombay Sapphire, and believes art should be perceived as a time continuum like the way we see nature and an instantaneous reflection of the creative part of ourselves being expressed, when a viewer comes in contact with his work.

Artist Statement

As much as I believe in the beauty of art in itself, I stand with the theory of ‘’significant form” and the aesthetic is experienced when the work of art stimulates an emotion, intellect and imagination.

The aesthetics in viewing a work of art should be judged based on the feature of the artwork in itself, and not just based on preferences and personal experiences. The artist however should not be the sole judge of his or her work, as seen that in no other field of human activity where this would be possible. Identity is a major theme in my work and, I believe is a way we as humans express ourselves, factors and conditions that an individual is born with, such as ethnicity, sexuality, race, gender, and even the physical composition of the body.
However, aspects of our identities are never fixed, and peoples experiences can alter how they see themselves or are perceived by other individuals, this shift or change in cultural perception has been mainly as a result of facets of globalization, my work connotes skin color, indigenous patterns and a way of life that can be identified by a social group of people. I am known to paint portraits and the figurative identifying these factors of identity and capturing social everyday life sometimes in domesticated environments or spatial spaces.
I would say the World has been influenced by cultural globalization, through, travel, technology and media, no culture I would say is totally original anymore, the world has become smaller and a diffusion of cultures has been overtly evident from music, to food and fashion, I am influenced by contemporary situations which are mostly universal and certain symbolic materials and iconography in my paintings show this.

Reflections on “African Art” | John Madu

As an artist of African descent, I feel there has been a misconception of what art from this part of the world would look like and what messages these works connotes, my work speaks on a sort of African Zeitgeist affected by contemporary times, and the influence of universal elements. Speaking of trends in new waves of culture and new identities from Africa. and I believe the term African art is constricting because stereo-typically, the term in most cases describes traditional and tribal form of art. underlying what westerners described as primitive, though the figurative abstraction of African art, had an important influence on 20th century European modernist art. the appreciation of African sculpture attributed to the very concept of ‘’African art’’, as seen by European and American artists and art historians. Before then African art was viewed as ethnographic objects rather than aesthetic objects that they were. I feel the emphasis on traditional art by scholars and art historians had left contemporary fine art from Africa understudied until recent times, which may bring up questions like what makes art ‘’African’ ’and what exactly is ‘’contemporary’’, the growing trend for African art has seen a rise in a number of curators, scholars and artists working in the related field.

girls just wanna have fun 2, in virtual situ

Selected Exhibitions


2020 | Tokyo Art Fair

2020 | Shanghai Art Fair


2019 | “Seeing Sounds”,Copeland Gallery, London (House of African Art)

2019 | “Next Wave: The Power of Authenticity and Self-Validation”, Hoxton Arches Gallery, London

2018 | “Identity Tones”, One Artspace Gallery, Manhattan, New York

2018 | “Forestation”, Didi Museum, Victoria Island Lagos

2018 | “Sao and the Muse”, Saocafe, Lagos

2017 | “Artyrama”, Artyrama Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos

2017 | “Its Not Furniture”, Omenka Gallery, Lagos

2016 | “Sunrise”, Moor House, London

2016 | “Platform”, ArtTwentyOne Gallery Victoria Island, Lagos

2016 | “Only The Brave 2”, DIESEL Showroom. Lagos

2013 | “Indigenes”, Hamilton Prokleen Centre, Ontario, Canada

2008 | “Art Expo Nigeria”, Nkem Gallery, Lagos


2018 | “Identity Tones”, by Bombay Sapphire, Lagos

2017 | “Only The Brave 1” Diesel Flagship Store, Victoria Island, Lagos

2016 | “An Obscure Fashion for Affection”, Terra Kulture, Lagos

2015 | “Morphogenesis”, Didi Museum, Lagos