Nneka Uzoigwe is a figurative artist who trained at the London Fine Art Studios. For Autumn 22, we asked Nneka to respond to the fragrance’s key ingredients - black tea, grapefruit, herbs. Her composition is detailed yet dreamy; on first glance seeming familiar, but becoming stranger the longer you look.
How would you describe your work?
Magic, dreams and imagination.
First thoughts when Ffern approached you about responding to a fragrance?
I thought about painting a still life using all the different ingredients - and then of course got carried away with my imagination and wanted to paint something more unique.
How did you approach the painting?
First of all I thought about how the painting could represent the fragrance. After spending time wearing the perfume, something about the smell, especially the notes of bergamot, made me think about travel, or something you would pack with you to take on a special adventure. I knew I wanted to include the grapefruit pictorially and of course a tea cup for the notes of tea. I then started to think about the tea plantations in Cameron Highlands, from when I used to live in Malaysia, and then the paragliders I saw on a trip floating over the alpine forests of Montriond. This originated the idea of the ingredients forming a hot air balloon drifting through the sky. Of course the cloves were needed to anchor the ropes.
Oils are clearly your favourite medium - why is that?
They are just a wonderful medium to use. The effects you can get seem endless, I love exploring the textures, different translucencies, luminosity…
You have often taken inspiration from mythology in your work - I’d love to know more about your research process and how that informs your paintings.
The work for my artist in residence at the Watts Gallery was certainly inspired by mythology. Specifically mythology that connected man and sea such as the Japanese god Ebisu and the children of Poseidon. More recently Narcissus inspired a self-portrait that will be in my show next year. There’s a magic and mystery element from myths that appeal to me in terms of their storytelling - but mostly I take more inspiration from dreams and the act of imagination, and where that can lead to personally.
There is a surreal element to many of your paintings. Do you think this is reflective of the way you see the world?
I think so, I’m a big day dreamer so I often find myself zoning out into another world completely. I came up with the idea of this painting for Ffern on a bus ride.
Can you describe your favourite scent?
I love bergamot and I adore Taif rose.
What are you working on next?
A show which will be at Panter & Hall in Spring.
What is the best advice you could pass on?
A current piece of advice I could pass on is to read What Do Dreams Do? by Sue Llewellyn.