Osinachi’s work to be first NFT auction for an African artist

MAN IN A POOL I Osinachi 2021 copy scaled e1633105897830

Nigerian crypto-artist Osinachi’s NFT series Different Shades of Water will be the first NFT by a contemporary African artist to be sold by Christie’s, London, with an online-only auction taking place from 5-19 October. In collaboration with Christie’s, the series will be also shown on screens at the 1-54 London fair at Somerset House from 14-17 October. 

Osinachi (born Prince Jacon Osinachi Igwe, 1991), is a Nigerian visual artist whose work explores personal experiences within a technological environment.

Aesthetically and procedurally, Osinachi’s work explores visible existence as protest by depicting and reimagining how individuals and collectives engage in advocacy for freedom of identity by thwarting societal expectations. This could be through the things they wear, the paraphernalia they adorn themselves with, or simply by being and existing in a form (albeit harmless) that the society frowns upon.

Known widely as Africa’s foremost crypto-artist, Osinachi has been featured by CNN, The Washington Post, Forbes Africa, Artnet, AFP and many other media outlets. He was a finalist for the Bridgeman Studio Award 2019.

The series Different Shades of Water was inspired by David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972). Osinachi imagines what the pool would look like with different shades of water.

In the series, he plays with the positioning of the subject’s body, exploring how daylight can change one’s perception of water in a pool. He builds on his signature style to emphasise the relationship between person and water in a world where people have adapted to recreating nature and the natural body.

Each piece is also a commentary on the endless prioritisation of work and achievements over the wellbeing of the human body.

From a technical point of view, the series is a triumph for Osinachi in his quest to digitally create a believable water body across multiple digital paintings as he exclusively uses Microsoft Office to produce his works, pushing the programme’s limited design capabilities. Osinachi believes each piece he creates is a challenge that empowers him to become an even better artist.

Ahead of the auction we spoke to the artist about his work.

New African: You will be the first artist from the African continent to sell an NFT piece in a public auction. What does this mean to you?

Osinachi: First, let me say that I feel super-honoured to be a part of this collaboration with 1-54 and Christie’s. Since the emergence of the NFT space and my entry into it as the first African, I have always advocated visibility for African artists.

I have always preached that it is important that collectors and other institutions pay due attention to African artists. That I am the first artist from Africa to sell an NFT piece in a public auction through Christie’s is a big win for the continent. To me, this means that this (and even more) is possible for African artists in the NFT space.

What impact do you think NFTs will have on the contemporary African art market?

I don’t think the traditional art industry is threatened by the intersection of art and technology. Rather, I feel that this intersection has come to make things more innovative, easier and even enable us to push the envelope in many ways.

Traditional art institutions such as auction houses, museums and galleries have a role to play in the NFT space, and that involves serving as educators of artists and collectors who are wondering what NFTs are all about. This same educational role is even being seen today where artists are asking their galleries questions about the NFT space.

If these traditional art institutions are being honest, they know and acknowledge that NFTs are here to stay. A few years from now, the most expensive living artists’ list will be dominated by NFT artists. This will push African artists to have a clearer perspective on how the space works. It will also encourage more African collectors to enter the space and start collecting works by African artists – and, believe me, that is sorely needed.

What was it about David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) that inspired you in your series Different Shades of Water?

Seeing that work by David Hockney led me to discover other swimming pool pieces by him. This in turn led me to ask myself why Hockney would paint more than one piece about swimming pools; then I discovered that it was about the first thing that made me love the series he made: the way he painted water in such a way that you feel you are right there inside the paintings and can almost touch the water.

I have always wanted to make a series commenting on the effects of the culture of 9 to 5 because I was once there as a worker in the Nigerian Civil Service. Combining this with the idea of putting the human body and the waterbody side-by-side, and actually getting into the process of painting on my computer made me realise that creating a believable water body on Microsoft Word was a fulfilling challenge.

The fact that this led to five artworks means that I totally enjoyed the challenge. So, yeah, it was the obsession I had with staring at Hockney’s swimming pools that originally inspired the series Different Shades of Water.

You rediscovered the artistic potential of Microsoft Word while playing around on your computer after finishing university, could you describe the process of making each piece and why this tool is central to your practice?

I discovered the artistic potential of Microsoft Word way before finishing university. I was playing around with the drawing tools on the software as far back as when I was 15 years old in junior secondary school. Over the years I have mastered it to the point that the process feels to me like breathing.

Basically, my process involves capturing a vision by taking a photo of people in whatever posture I want. With that as the reference image, I get to illustrating on Microsoft Word (this is the same stage where I add the illustration of any object I feel will reinforce the piece); I add the colours based on how they complement each other; then I export the work as a PDF before converting it to JPEG or PNG. It might sound so easy, but this is the only way I know to describe my process.

One philosophy I apply in my life is the philosophy of doing better and doing more – and this manifests totally in my artistic practice. This is why Microsoft Word is central to my practice. It allows me to not only push boundaries in terms of what I can make with it but to also surprise and even pleasantly shock myself sometimes.

I think that, in addition to seeing collectors fall in love with my work, seeing the product of my process makes a wave of satisfaction wash all over me. The process of creating art is so beautiful it makes me want to cry. It’s indescribable. 

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