Art

 

Silas Onoja: Hyperreal

Is painting coming in competition with the camera?

By: ANTHONY PRICE

Painting by Silas Onoja. Image courtesy of SIlas Onoja for use by The Khollected Magazine

The hyperrealistic painting challenges the medium to portray images in vivid detail in a way more true to life than photography. For Nigerian painter Silas Onoja, hyperrealism does more than challenge photography’s ability to capture the most realistic account of an image; it brings out the truth of it. A recreation of a face or a landscape is only as strong as its most specific detail whereas an interpretation of that same thing allows more room for abstraction. Through the layering of paint coats, chosen materials, and other techniques, paintings offer a three-dimensional image, which, according to Onoja, gives the medium a better grasp and breadth to recreate and create realistically. A picture of the Grand Canyon can capture where a shadow might have fallen over one specific rock during one specific day, but a painting of the same location can show how that shadow fell over the rock, as the stacking of paint coats creates the crevices in the rock where the shadow inhabited. 

 

The paintings of Onoja do more than just recreate faces. They explore themes of liberation and hope with better-than-picturesque detail. On his social media accounts, Onoja engages the audience with the process of making hyperrealistic paintings through work-in-progress posts and a large presence.

Portrait of Silas Onoja. Image courtesy of SIlas Onoja for use by The Khollected Magazine

Painting by Silas Onoja. Image courtesy of SIlas Onoja for use by The Khollected Magazine

Where do you find the inspirations behind your works?
SILAS ONOJA: I derive inspiration from my environment, the way people behave [and] the way they react to things. I create my paintings to express how I feel and also to drive my message across. I also derive my inspirations from other great artists [and] how they paint and view the art world.


Who are some of your influences?
I have a few persons whom I feel have influenced my art in a way or two. Clement Nwafor is one artist [whose] words and works have influenced [me]. Some foreign hyperrealistic artists have influenced my works too.


What draws you to using water and plastic as motifs?
In those paintings, I [am] talking about freedom. I [talk] about freedom because I feel a lot of people have been slaves to themselves, and therefore the need to be free can not be overemphasized. Mental freedom is what I [refer] to in those paintings. I use plastic to represent the mental bondage or whatever has held them captive. The water represents the refreshing taste of freedom and calmness freedom brings.


Your works feature very detailed features on the skin and faces of your subjects. Have you always made these details a focal point of your art?
That’s what I want people to see, that’s my area of emphasis. I want to direct the eyes of the viewer to the expressions and countenance of my subject.

Painting by Silas Onoja. Image courtesy of SIlas Onoja for use by The Khollected Magazine

"I use plastic to represent the bondage or whatever that has held them captive. The water represents the refreshing taste of freedom and calmness freedom brings." - Silas Onoja

What emotions do you like to focus on?

In some of my paintings, I portray joyous emotions, [in] some others struggles and anxiety. In all [paintings], the general message is of hope and belief.

 

In your social media posts, you like to show updates on some of your paintings. Why do you decide to show the process rather than just upload the final product?

I feel it’s important to share the progress because a lot of people want to learn, and I feel by doing that, it might inspire some upcoming artists. Most people won't believe it's a painting if I just post the finished work, because I work to make it as realistic as possible. I've had cases where people tell me my works are not paintings, so when they see those progress shots, they'll believe it's a painting.

 

What do you find that hyperrealism paintings do that photographs can’t do?

Hyperrealistic paintings are far greater than photographs. Photographs are flat, while hyperrealistic paintings are not. It has a 3D look that seems like the person in the painting is physically present.

 

In the same vein, what does hyperrealism offer that other styles of painting do not?

Hyperrealism brings out the actual thing while other styles don't.

 

Tell us about some of your exhibitions.

I had my first solo exhibition in 2018, [the] Freedom Exhibition in Nigeria. In 2019, I had another solo show at the ZigZag Art Bar Oostende in Belgium. I did a group exhibition, Plates and Pallets, [in] 2019, which consisted of 3 artists in Nigeria.

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