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Meet Tonye: The Visionary Behind Contemporary Masterpieces

Updated: Jun 26

In the vibrant and ever-evolving world of contemporary art, few names are as compelling and innovative as Tonye. His works, rich in emotion and layered with narrative, captivate both the casual observer and the seasoned collector. In this exclusive interview, we dive into the mind of this visionary artist to understand his journey, his challenges, and his aspirations.

How Did You Become an Artist?

“I remember just drawing when I was younger, like every artist,” Tonye begins, a nostalgic smile creeping across his face. “My mum was my biggest supporter; she bought me a small toy where I could draw, and that was when I first realized how enjoyable art could be. Another pivotal moment was when my friend in primary school used to bring comics, and we would compete to see who could draw the better Superman.”

Tonye’s early years were marked by a fierce passion for creativity. “I used to scribble on the walls so much that every year my parents had to repaint our rooms. In secondary school, I always joined art clubs. One time, my dad asked my uncle, his twin brother, and half-brother to come over. They asked me to draw a house and a portrait, and these three men would decide whether I would become an architect or an artist. My uncle declared, ‘This man is going to be an artist,’ after seeing me paint my dad’s portrait. From that moment, I always knew I would be an artist.”

The Challenges Along the Way

“The biggest challenge I faced was the perception that art is not essential,” Tonye explains. “During events like COVID-19, people prioritize essentials such as food. If a building crashes, art is not the first thing people would save; so basically, art is only essential for the elites, and art is a luxury.”

"Secondly, art is not a cheap investment, and the art world back home lacks structure. As an artist, you’re a startup; you are your own driver, your own everything. You market your own pieces, you are your own administrator; you do everything yourself"

However, the art world in Nigeria lacks enough structures to support artists. If art is a reflection of the world, you need to be able to travel and experience it to tell its story. For someone coming from a third-world country, there are a lot of barriers. Despite all these challenges, I see them as part of the job. We didn’t come here to complain; we have to rise above it. I always look at the glass half full. If I keep focusing on the challenges, I won’t be able to go anywhere.”

The Source of Confidence

“I believe in myself and my ideas. For the past 15 years, I have been proud of projects and stuff that I’ve done. When you create a piece and then put it out in the world and people gravitate to it, that is like, yes, I was right, I was spot on, my ideas actually have a space in this world. The beautiful thing about art is that you always start on a blank sheet and you begin to weave and create stories and then present it to the world. That’s where we are subconsciously working on our confidence and trusting ourselves.”

Tonye also attributes his confidence to the support of others. “Secondly, the people that believe in you and the people that have been part of the process. People that have seen you grow are enough support that lets you believe that you should be confident.”

The Essence of Art

“Art is my peace; it makes me happy, gives me peace, life, and healing, and that is the honest truth. Art is so important because you connect to emotions and you are able to create something that becomes more than itself, more than you. You create a moment in time and that’s just crazy.”

A Vision for the Future

“The goal is finding a team of people that believe in me and my dreams, finding a structure that is sustainable in terms of monetisation to keep this going as long as I can. Also, make my art so big that the people that are part of my team can live their dreams. If Tonye becomes an entity, everybody that is part of my team should be able to realise their dreams through me. I always think about that when I am thinking of my next steps.”

Tonye’s vision extends beyond personal success. “I want to create pieces that talk about the same content that people can interact with. I want to create a version of what I feel like my pieces mean. I want everybody in their different spaces and ages to interact with that same product. When I am able to do this, every single person at different ages can see themselves in my piece. I feel like I’ve done something, and that is something that I am looking forward to.”

Current Projects

“I’m working on an exhibition with The Collective Makers of my experience in Venice.

Also, a show with a friend of mine called ‘ASAR.’ And, of course, of course, getting more drawings because I have a list of painting ideas that I need to get out of my system.”

Overcoming Creative Blocks

“The root cause of a block for me personally is when you are worried about money; you can’t think creatively. Just go with the flow, don’t think too much because sometimes you lose a thing by trying to stress it. Just go with the energy that comes through. Be a free-flowing stream, let it go, don’t try to hold on and just go with it and let nature take its course.”

It’s clear that Tonye’s journey is one of resilience and boundless creativity.

His story is a testament to the power of belief in oneself and the enduring impact of art in connecting us all. For collectors and enthusiasts alike, Tonye’s work is more than an investment; it’s a piece of his soul, a narrative that invites you to be part of a larger story. Keep an eye out for his next exhibition – it’s sure to be nothing short of extraordinary.

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