Olaniyi Omotayo, a self-taught Lagos based artist who has always loved drawing right from his childhood, was born and brought up in Ondo State at the southwestern region of Nigeria. His parents were not in support of his drawings while he was growing up because he used to mess up his notebooks and textbooks with sketches and scribbles. Despite the discouragement and punishment he got from his teachers and parents, he didn’t give up on his passion for art. He works with oil and acrylic. The impasto skin texture in his work depicts confidence and boldness. His work focuses on the impact of socio-cultural events especially on young figures in his immediate environment. He works mainly with bold figures and his works graces the unique styles of the western afrocentrism. Olaniyi has worked with several galleries both local and international. His aim is to uncover the untold stories about humanity and help people discover the greatness within them.
What’s your artistic background?
I was born in September 1995. I loved drawing as a child, unfortunately my parents were not in support of this hobby so i got punished frequently for drawing on my notebooks. I wanted to study art in school but my parents didn’t approve of that career path. I continued my career as a self taught artist in spite of the fact that I studied business administration in the university. However, I acquired a lot of knowledge in drawing and painting through the internet and direct mentorship from several established artists.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
A work of art holds an essential part of the artist’s life. However, the most essential part of an art is the message it passes across to various individuals. Another important part of art is it’s ability to tell stories or represent a particular course.
What role does the artist have in society?
An artist’s responsibility to the society is to Impact positively into the minds of the viewers or beholders of his/her work. I believe everyone is an artist but not everyone remains an artist while growing up. However, a true artist recognizes the passion for art and develops it. I also believe that the world would be vague without art. It is an artist’s responsibility to create pieces that give meaning to our existence.
What art do you most identify with?
I identify with realism. My subjects are human figures specifically people I am familiar with. Using known people as my subject has also helped me connect more with my works and the stories behind them.
What themes do you pursue?
The theme I pursue in my work is ‘confidence’. I work with bold subjects in other to portray the innate ability of humans in relation to the Impact we have (or can have) on our social environment. I believe every human is a unique being and we all have greatness within us irrespective of our background. I am currently working on a series titled ‘Beauty in solitude ‘, which involves working on solitary subjects and depicting the charisma and charm each subject possesses.
What’s your favourite art work?
My favourite artwork is ‘Lonely but not alone‘. A piece I create in 2023 depicting an African lady in a blue elegant garment sitting beside a cat.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
A real life situation that inspired me was having my paintings being exhibited at an international gallery. This was a group exhibition with Mitochondria gallery in Texas in the year 2022.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
Asides being an artist, I haven’t done any other job. I have been a full time artist since I graduated from the university and it has been a wonderful experience so far.
Art is life and everything therein. Without art, life would be as good as an empty slate.
What is an artistic outlook on life?
Art helps you process your emotions and understand your surroundings. It allows you to see life from a different perspective and it makes you feel alive. Art has always been an important part of human society since the beginning of time. Art has been used as a tool for cultural exchange, education, and expression.
It is an artist’s sense of life that becomes their style. It is the artist’s sense of life that a viewer relates to when they get involved in an artist’s work, be it good or bad.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
The most memorable response I have had to my work is about the quality of the texture in my subject and the connection between the old African sensation my art portrays.
What food, drink, song inspires you?
I’m inspired by the Yoruba food (that of the southwestern part of Nigeria) because that’s where I’m from. Some of these foods are pounded yam, Amala, moimoi, akara and so on. I’m inspired by afrobeat. My favourite music artist is Burna Boy. I also love the amapiano beat which is generally believed to have originated from the south African culture.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
The artistic life is lonely. However I counteract it with listening to music and hanging out with friends every once in a while. I spend most of my spare time watching art related videos on YouTube. This help me gain more knowledge about my passion.
What do you dislike about the art world?
I do not like the fact that a lot of galleries only focus on already represented artists while neglecting many talented, unseen and underrepresented artists. I feel a lot of talented artists are underrepresented or not represented at all. If these artist could get a better platform to display their works, they would have a great impact in the art world.
What do you dislike about your work?
I actually do not dislike anything about my work.
What do you like about your work?
I love the textures in my work and the elegance in my colour usage. I also love the fact that a lot of people are able to relate with my work and the storied behind it.
Should art be funded?
Art should be funded because art funding brings about more innovations in the society. It also enables artists to reach their full potentials in the art world ‘ that which cannot be attained without the availability of financial resources ‘.
What role does arts funding have?
Art drives tourism and revenue to local businesses. The non-profit arts industry alone generates billions of dollars in economic activity annually. This has also helped in reducing unemployment.
What is your dream project?
My dream project is to have a big solo exhibition which would speak about various challenges young people face regarding choices made in relations to societal values.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
I would like to be compared to Leonard Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Favourite or most inspirational place ?
My favourite place is my studio. This is where I find genuine peace and happiness. I consider my studio a sacred place because it has become part of my existence.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice I have been given is ‘Do not lose your purpose trying to live other people’s life’.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
My goal is to see my works hanging in various renowned museums and making positive impacts in people’s life.
My future plan is to be a renowned artist globally and own an art academy where young talented and passionate artists can be nurtured and empowered to become the best version of themselves.