Where do you consider home?
I was born in Dagenham, moved to Stevenage when I was ten and I've also spent a number of years schooling in Nigeria. However, Stevenage is where my family live now and what I’d consider to be my home-home.
What narratives do you explore in your work?
Culturally I explore my British-Nigerian identity. Due to the fact that I’m using family photographs in my work, the figures I’m painting are black. This isn’t a true reflection of my life, but I wanted to portray the part of my identity that isn’t regularly seen in artworks. I wanted to make it possible for black people to see themselves represented within the art world.
I include some elements of religion because my family are Christian. There’s a banner that says ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ and a cake that says the same thing. I found it a bit bizarre that a cake would have that written on it instead of Happy Birthday or Congratulations. I’m playing on my confusion, when I use these religious connotations out of context.
Which artists have influenced your style of painting?
When I first became interested in painting I was absolutely taken by Lucien Freud and Jenny Saville - you can see their confidence in the way they handle the paint when portraying the figure. I spent a lot time emulating them before coming into my own.
When I decided to take my work in the direction it’s going in now, it was the work of Njideka Akunyili Crosby that has had the biggest influence. I love the way she uses pattern and interiors in her work. She's also Nigerian, I really like the way she incorporates her culture and her heritage within the work.
Does the black artist have a specific “role” to play?
I’m conscious of the fact that I can’t speak for all Black people and our stories aren’t necessarily the same. The one role they do have - well, it’s not really a role, but visible black artists give black students and emerging artists hope and something to look up to.
It’s comforting to see representation and people that look like you in the positions you want to be in. I think there’s a bit of a preconception that black art won’t bring an audience in but people of all races flooded in to see Soul of a Nation and the Basquiat: Boom for Real exhibition.