Kelechi Nwaneri (b. 1994) is a self-taught mixed media artist. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Extension from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2015. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions in Nigeria, and won the 2018 Spanish Embassy annual Visual Art Competition in Abuja.
Nwaneri started pursuing drawing during his third year in university. He was inspired by artists such as Kelvin Okafor, Arinze Stanley, and Ken Nwadiogbu, and initially focused on pencil realism, which he later combined with acrylic and oil paints, watercolour, and collage. Nwaneri’s work focuses on issues around mental health, psychology, and social values. He uses his art to advocate for mental health awareness, and applies uli, nsibidi and adinkra iconography to create surrealistic landscapes which explore metaphysical and allegoric imagery and concepts.
My work is born out of the desire to represent the quiet interaction between our conscious and subconscious state of mind in relation to our environment. I believe that everything in our lives dances to the vibrations of the subconscious. A major feature of this pencil and charcoal series is the ‘Black Figure’, which is usually clad with symbols and motifs. These figures are inspired by the idea of scars and tribal marks which represent our subconscious state. I use primarily West African iconography, mainly Adinkra, Uli, & Nsibidi symbols, as well as the lines and patterns found in Adire fabric, to create forms and figures which I draw alongside realistic subjects and serene settings, creating a surreal landscape. I create allegorical scenes which touch on mental health and social values, telling stories borne out of true experiences. The paintings I create explore scenes from my imagination, which I do my best to paint as vividly as I saw them.
"Working in an inventive style that he’s dubbed Contemporary Surrealism, Kelechi Charles Nwaneri creates beautifully bizarre portraits of strange figures that seem half-real and half-imagined, with West-African iconography marvelously mixed with scenarios straight out of the history of European modern art to create colorful, new, dreamlike narratives." - Paul Laster, "Now's the Time: Eight African Painters"
in White Hot Magazine, September 2020