Uzor Ugoala: Conceptualising Dimensions Of Realities In A Frame
Uzor Ugoala’s work of Art is an uncommon one in the Nigerian Art industry but he is keenly championing the creativity and the endless possibilities conceptual photography emanates.
Following his outstanding artworks which gained the public’s admiration, Ugoala opened up the Art exhibition ‘On Display’ showcased at Landmark Gallery, alongside big names in the Nigerian Art scene; Dotun Popoola, Adeola Balogun, Ibim Cookey and a host of others.
Highlighting the essence of conceptual photography, he speaks to Guardian Life about his starting point, his journey so far and his vision.
- Tell us briefly about your life background and how your passion for Art was discovered?
I went to medical school and it was during those days the interest in artistic imagery began to crystalliae. I would spend hours unending, viewing black and white images online and getting lost in them – particularly images that had some emotion in their fabric. I knew I wanted to create images that were beyond mere pictures but I first had to learn to handle a camera from YouTube and random photography articles on the web. As time went on, I dropped out of medical school to focus on the work.
- Why conceptual photography?
I believe conceptual photography can be a strong tool to drive soul-searches and introspection, because of the various elements of realism in the genre. A vivid picture can serve as a mirror and a time machine. It pulls you in.
- Where do you draw your inspiration from and what stories do your Art tell?
Primarily, inspiration for my work is from the Holy Spirit. I also enjoy viewing surreal work – either paintings or photos. Some of the artists who have a place in my heart include Nicolas Bruno, Jamie Baldridge, and Rene Magritte. I’m also drawn to downtempo trance music a great deal; it helps keep my mind afloat. A day hardly passes without me listening to my SoundCloud playlist. I also pay close attention to my personal experiences with people.
My Art speaks on the human condition. Regardless of race or tribe, the fundamental problems that ache the soul are about the same – finding one’s self and trying to create meaning out of life.
- What is the toughest and interesting part about conceptual photography?
I’ll tell you for free that locations or sites I consider perfect for my work don’t come by so easily. I hinted earlier that I find it adventurous but it can be challenging when I don’t see what I want. I’m used to my shoots being interrupted by hoodlums partly because my set-ups can look strange to a random passer-by. Sometimes, I have to give these guys money because of “peace of mind”. Other times, just being diplomatic with them does the trick.
Sorting out props for the work can sometimes be nerve-racking depending on the complexity level of the intended shoot. For the most part, I build my props myself or hire an artisan. At other times, I purchase them.
- Regarding challenges, what do you consider your biggest challenge as a conceptual artist?
Trying to make my end result as close as possible to what I have in mind. Coming up with ideas isn’t the tough part, any person with the tiniest creative spark can conceptualise. Execution is the real mountain. I have to get my shoots right and everything has to happen in front of my camera so that I don’t rely heavily on photo manipulation lest my work crosses into the realm of digital Art. You get what I mean.
- Considering the fact that there isn’t much traffic directed to conceptual photography in Nigeria. In what ways do you think it can be a thriving field in Nigeria?
You are indeed right. It is not yet as deeply rooted a medium of Art like painting or sculpture, for example. Not much history as regards conceptual photography is known in Nigeria and I daresay Africa, unlike the aforementioned media.
But…and this is a big ‘but’…with time, things will gradually morph. Conceptual photography will begin to find its way heavily into institutional Art collections. Artists in this medium or genre just need to be consistent in producing good work.
- What do you aim to portray and achieve through your Art?
My work serves 2 audiences – me first and then the viewer. I constantly want to see what new limits I can break and how I can evolve and grow beyond challenges. I want my work to serve as reference material of some sort for another person – like a book, but this time, a book locked into one single work of Art that they view – as some form of inspiration to push for whatever it is they dream of.
- Apart from conceptual photography, are you into any other field of Art?
My work allows me to explore painting, sculpture and installation in varying degrees. However, if there’s any medium I want to explore greatly in the future, it would be installation Art.