“art inspires me to make art. when you realize that everything is art [and vice-versa], you begin to peep the creativity even in the seemingly basic things in life … an idea of how artistic, versatile and calculated God, the Supreme Creator, is.” – Ugonna ‘gunna’ Ikechi.
TheGunnaVision: An Interview With Ugonna Ikechi
Hi! We’d love to know more about you and thegunnavision.
My name’s Ugonna ‘gunna’ Ikechi, and I’m a Toronto-based Nigerian multi-media artist. I created a platform, thegunnavision, which serves as a conduit for my artistic expressions. Art has been a major part of my life from as early as I could hold a pen[cil]. I always had people around me that were very good at drawing, from my brothers to my cousin and uncle; so that probably played a role in my general artistic growth.
As a multi-media artist, what materials do you find yourself using most often?
At first, I was only into drawing with pencils and ink in particular. I liked having control and being precise, so I was a bit frightened about painting because of its permanence. Once I overcame that, I couldn’t stop painting with acrylics, and that’s currently my main medium of expression. I’m also into graphic design, photography, and videography.
How would you say the cultural influences of Nigeria and Toronto have influenced your artistic vision?
Nigeria, being abundant in culture and art of various forms, has influenced me in the sense that I have an awareness of my roots, so to speak. Toronto, on the other hand, is diverse in culture; it has this dope fusion of everyone from everywhere. That inspires me to blend my African heritage with the culture I’ve been exposed to up here on a global scale. The vision is still very much personal because I’m experiencing both sides of the coin as I go through life, and I want to portray that through my art.
From Jean-Michel Basquiat to Erykah Badu, what main qualities do the artists that inspire you have in common?
Definitely their honesty and authenticity. Basquiat and Badu are very intuitive artists; they create what they feel. I’m in awe at their ability to be in touch with their consciousness and effortlessly [or seemingly so] communicate specific emotions in their art. The same goes for Yasiin Bey, Mick Jenkins, André Benjamin, and other artists that inspire me–they all have a way of creating a genuine ambience in their work that overflows with passion. Another main quality artists like Ab-Soul, Dalí, Lupe Fiasco, and Toyin Ojih Odutola inspire me with is their unorthodox meticulousness. They pay so much attention to detail in the subtlest of ways; it blows my mind when I realize an element in their work that I hadn’t initially caught. I try to incorporate these qualities in my own work.
I love how ‘wav.e rid.e’ chronicles your journey as an artist. I was imagining how his face would have been if he looked back. What would his expression have been had he been looking backward?
That’s a really dope question [laughs]. It’s a lil’ funny that in the synopsis of the piece on my website, I’m “focused on my vision, not my rear.” I mean, seeing that the journey isn’t the smoothest, there would probably be a distressed look on his face at first if he looked back. But hopefully, after coming to terms with his situation and purpose for being on this precarious path, he’d have his game face on, ready to surpass the uncertainty.
The terms and phrases you use to define your art are so thoughtful. Does it work best when you define your art before you create the piece or afterward?
Thank you. It mainly works better defining the piece afterward or during the creative process. Rarely ever do I have a title before I begin the piece, because it’s a journey and I wouldn’t want to be confined to a specific definition while I work. Although I always have an idea of what I’m trying to achieve with a piece before I begin, I often arrive at the main term/phrase while or after working on it.
[ pacif.i ]
: to cause [someone who is angry or upset] to become calm or quiet
: to cause or force [a country, a violent group of people, etc.] to become peaceful.
How do you mentally prepare yourself to create?
I just recently started doing this; I speak to the Supreme Creator before I begin working on a piece.. I mean, who better to get creative inspiration from? After that, the vibes are vital to get in my art mode. I’ve got to have music playing, preferably some Bob Marley, Erykah, André 3000, Mick, Fela Kuti, Esqxr, M.I.Blue, Billie Holiday, J. Cole, Jesse Jagz, Majid Jordan, Willow Smith.. I definitely have to make a playlist now! I also watch/listen to a bunch of documentaries to add to the atmosphere. Depending on my mood, I’d want someone in the room; sometimes just for their aura, and on rare occasions, to get a second opinion.
How do you find the balance between personal expression and commercial interest when working on commissioned projects?
To be honest, it can get quite bothersome [laughing]. As an artist primarily, I truly appreciate when I have creative control in a commission project, with some personal input from the client of course. Some clients understand this and are willing to put their individual compulsions aside for the sake of the project. I’m still learning how to balance both aspects, because they are pretty important. It’s all for the good of the art at the end of the day.
That’s not very easy to decide, but it’s probably between ‘the wav.e rid.e’ and the ‘vrede in pyn‘ series. I’d choose those pieces mainly because of the messages behind them and the time I put into creating them. I’ve been working on patience and depicting certain emotions in my art. I think the patience is evident in ‘the wav.e rid.e’ piece, especially in the water [i spent a long while on it]. The message and emotion in the ‘vrede in pyn’ pieces were important for me to capture. To a large extent, my favourite piece is often my most recent piece, or the one I’m currently working on at the moment.
Do you love thegunnavision as much as us? Of course you do! Follow him on instagram @thegunnavision and see more on his website at www.thegunnavision.com.