Previous exhibitions and projects
Identity tones, Artyrama gallery, Lagos, 2018
It’s not furniture, Omenka gallery, Lagos, 2017
An obscure fashion for affection, Terra Kulture gallery, Lagos, 2016
Morphogenesis, Didi Museum, Lagos, 2015
Platform, Art Twenty One, Lagos, 2016
Only the Brave, Diesel collaboration, Lagos, 2015
Yellow Sun, Moorhouse Ikoyi, Lagos, 2015
About the artist
John Madu is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes painting, collage and design. Born in 1983 in Lagos, Nigeria, Madu developed an artistic awareness early on due to his father’s art collecting. After studying policy and strategic studies he decided to pursue an artistic career, always experimenting with a diversity of media; from paintings on canvas, burlap or “akwa ocha” (a traditional cloth from the Delta state, Nigeria), to designing with plexiglass or snake skin in his work.
Sources of inspiration
Madu has an eclectic practice. His choice of technique is inspired by the particular theme he wants to address at the time. Many of Madu’s paintings explore a fauvist use of colour with fierce brushstrokes of contrasting, often non-realistic colours for his characters (orange and yellow haired girls springs to mind!). Madu skilfully plays with shadows and light to accentuate the features of his characters, bestowing them with a strong presence and confidence that permeates most of his work.
Inspired by pop culture, African contemporary art and surrealism, Madu often paints metaphorical subjects drawing on literature, myths, and his own life experiences.
Know where you come from!
Madu often creates work based on themes that reflect on the question of his origins: from the African continent in general to the urban megalopolis that is his home state, Lagos. His recent works address the meaning and significance of African identities in the context of globalisation, and in particular issues surrounding cultural development, hybrid origins and authenticity. His Forestation series (2017) is an insight into a life lived in tune with nature, away from the stresses and pressures of urban environments.
Madu’s Before 4pm series (2018) forms part of his overarching exploration of identity and the effects of globalisation on African identity. His characters are set in domestic spaces; however here he aims to flip the narrative of the role of African women in domestic spaces which typically depicts them carrying out household chores, and instead, the works show women who are aware of themselves and are in control of their environment. The title for the series is inspired by his personal experience growing up with limited access to technology and before the advent of social media. The colour-bar television spurred the name “Before 4pm”: before cable television became popular and more widespread, the artist recalls having to wait until 4pm to watch television, with only the colour-bars to look at on the screens before 4pm.
“I want my art to be widely accessible. I would like to see myself creating iconic pieces for all to enjoy, in public spaces for instance.” - John Madu