The Luminous Painter


Onyema Offoedu-Okeke, an architect by training, is a self-­taught artist who at the beginning of his painting career, was considered an outsider, and was left out of the cannon of progressive Nigerian painters. His lack of formal art school training, in so many ways subordinated and or eroticized his works in the eyes of art critics and admirers. At that point, the almost manic or fantastical quality of his works, made the division between those that went to art school and those who didn’t, very insignificant.

In Onyema’s works, that I have collected for about 20 years, and of which, I may be considered the single largest collector, I have learnt that works of art, are made in order to communicate messages.

Through these messages, Onyema has been able to powerfully teach the art world, to view art, with immense generosity by creating awareness of the resourcefulness of Contemporary African Art.

Born in 1967, in the city of Aba, South East Nigeria, Onyema studied Architecture at the prestigious University of Nigeria. After graduating in 1992, he embarked on a career as a full time studio artist, hosting and participating in several exhibitions around the world. He has written numerous essays, poems, and books on art, as well as on other social topics.

In the area of Contemporary African Art, Onyema is considered to have created a creative niche. In 2011, I published a 260‐page book titled “Contemporary African Art,My Private Collection of Onyema Offoedu-­Okeke”. Extensively researched articles and contributions by art experts and admirers like Professor Chike Aniakor, Professor Sheri Ndibe, Dr. Ozioma Onuzulike, Dr. Francis Ugiomo, and Mr. Richard Howarth enriched this book.painting-4Onyema’s style is characterized by acrylic, and pastel and other selected fascinating media. His choice of colours is that of kinetic pictorial energy and composition. In the words of Professor Aniakor, “… his paintings combine the assertively and boldly stated detailed painted designs, which are simply rendered as colour splashes, and yet held in balance by the nourishing power of fluid lines, and defining contours, while silhouettes lend visual density to well formalized painting compositions… his works provide the kinds of surface tapestry that easily yields access when driven by good analysis and synthetic art appraisal.”

The over 200 Onyema’s works in my private collection, provide an impressive paradigm of an artistic advancement and avant-gardism that point his works in the direction of contemporaneity that is submerged beneath high embellishments and encompasses inventiveness as an integral component of art. I Bind in Onyema’s works, no matter the media, a clear definition and patterns that in progressive ways, point to the stable codes and narratives of traditional and yet universally accepted art.

Crucially, Onyema has enormous natural talent, gifts and temperament that prod him to try virtually anything. Onyema has a love for astonishing juxtapositions as can be seen when he paints a landscape, Billed with wild colourful Blowers and birds, with wonderfully styled power of fluid lines, or a market place that drizzles acrylic on canvas with free‐Blowing human images in various configurations. These images and forms play mirage‐like tricks on the viewer.