Interview by Visual Collaborative
May 2020 7 min read
Chinyere Ibenye a fine artist and a painter based in Nigeria. She studied at the California Arts and Crafts in Oakland and is self-proclaimed as a Contemporary Impressionist. Her love for colors is in colorful, vibrant, and energetic methods expressing her Africanism. As a feature in our Grand Masters interview series, Chinyere talks about her work, art associations, patriarchy, and a view of support systems in her country, including its connection to the cultural and creative industry.
(VC) For art connoisseurs, enthusiasts and patrons who know little what “contemporary impressionist” means, how do you explain it?
(Chinyere) To art connoisseurs and lovers of art that want to know what Contemporary Impressionist means. I have been asked this question at several art exhibitions, and I always tell them that it is an art style that is as old as humanity. That is the ancient world man-made images on the wall of caves, and these images were the impression of their daily activities. It continued to the ancient Egyptian artists, who introduced beautiful, vibrant, and cheerful colors to the arts associated with the modern-day impressionist. Artists of the old starting from the ancient world, middle age, and the Renaissance each of these periods of art had set standards for an artist to present his works. But the modern-day impressionist who is contemporary is a departure from the rigid and control style of painting, it is a challenge to the established style it does not conform to the norms. It is a freedom for artists to create works with emotion without restrictions and to experiment with new ideas. It also freedom of imagination and self-expression. An artist expressing not what he or she sees physically on canvas, but they feel.
(VC) How do your country’s present culture and Covid-19 realities factor into your artwork and membership contributions with organizations such as the Female Artists Association of Nigeria?
(Chinyere) COVID -19 pandemic brought the culture and economy of the whole world to stand still. My country, Nigeria, is not left out; its effects on our personal, cultural, social, and economic lives are yet to be comprehended. As a people of culture, we love larger gatherings, be it at a wedding or burial, but the Covid-19 has brought a new reality and a new way of life called ” Social Distancing.” The impact of the pandemic on the Creative Industry is devastating. Visual Art is the worst hit. The reality of visual arts is that we have not had physical art exhibitions as usual for some time. Before the pandemic we the Female Artists Association had planned two art exhibitions for April and July 2020. But it was canceled due to the COVID -19 pandemic and all physical exhibitions have been canceled for further notice because we all must observe the “social distancing”. In terms of support, Visual Arts receives zero assistance from the government and its agencies, so we at the Female Artists Association have been encouraging members to participate in online exhibitions.
I get my inspiration sometimes in the most unlikely places, like looking at the clouds where I see images people might not see, going to the local market watching market men and women do their business, going to weddings especially the traditional marriages which are always colorful
(VC) In your quiet or noisy moments, how do you get inspired? What makes you create the work you do. Do you seek spirituality or have a mastered discipline like other artists to attract inspiration or muses?
(Chinyere) I do not seek spirituality or have any mastered discipline to attract inspiration, I get my inspiration sometimes in the most unlikely places, like looking at the clouds where I see images people might not see, going to the local market watching market men and women do their business, going to weddings especially the traditional marriages which are always colorful also I get my inspiration by reading books. I live in a society where they are lots of festivals, so I get inspired by all the beautiful sights and sounds around me.
The Glory of Mask, Oil on canvas 32 x 24 by Chinyere Ibenye
(VC) A perfect world does not exist, but if one does what core values would you make a staple in the community?
(Chinyere) I am a mother of an autistic person, so my core values for a staple community will be tolerance, acceptance, and love for humanity in respective of where a person is from or the color of one’s skin. We all are connected one way or the other, if we all have these as our core values there will be less hate and wars in our World.
(VC) In the present work world of patriarchal microaggressions, there seems to be a decrease of empathy as the use of social media rises. Please tell us about your own experiences in the work world as a woman, how it may relate?
(Chinyere) As females in a male-dominated field, especially where visual art is a concern, we are not in competition with our male counterparts. They have always shown us support, especially when we have joint exhibitions. Instead of aggression, they show us empathy because it is not easy to be a visual artist in this part of the world. As females, we work harder to prove ourselves to gain respect for what we do in a male-dominated society. Despite the ills of social media, it has helped us to push our events to the public. Living in a patriarchal society, it is not easy for some women in authority, but these women are holding up to the task doing what is expected of them and, most times doing it better. I personally have not experienced aggression from my male counterparts. I always have a good working relationship with whoever I worked with.
(VC) Some mention different historical times as a period they admire for affluence or culture. If you can time-warp to any era to collaborate with its culture, what period would it be and why?
(Chinyere) Studying the different periods of the art styles from the Ancient world to the Modern, during my college days, greatly impacted and influenced me on how I metamorphose as an artist today. The first time I saw the picture of the famous bust of Queen Nofretete (Nefertiti), that of King Tutankhamen and the painting of king Tutankhamen hunting, painted on a chest found in his tomb, the colors of those paintings had stuck with me ever since. Another era is the RENAISSANCE, their use of deep colors, the folds, and the flow of the clothing also stuck with me. One of the paintings of that period that I admire so much is, “ADORATION ” by GENTILE DAFABRIANO. The details on that painting inspire me each time I see it. The Modern Arts with all it “isms” Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, and Symbolism also help mode me as an artist. If I can time – warp to any culture it will be the era of impressionism and Symbolism. Why, because they represent a revolt against the a set standard and establishment that restrict creativity.
Red Cap Chiefs, Oil on canvas 33 x 24 by Chinyere Ibenye
These artworks were stolen out of Africa, they are our national heritage which if have the opportunity to work at any of the museums I shall fight for the return of the artworks to their different countries
(VC) At this stage of your collective accomplishments, If you can work alongside any international public figure, brand, or enterprise. Who would it or they be, and why?
(Chinyere) If I am to work with any international enterprise, it has to be in Art Museums in Europe especially in Britain or France. The reason is that these museums house the best of African historic and cultural Arts and Sculptures. These artworks were stolen out of Africa, they are our national heritage which if have the opportunity to work at any of the museums I shall fight for the return of the artworks to their different countries.