Welcome to the work of Texas born artist Chinaza Agbor @chinagbor - we collaborated not too long ago on a give away of her work, which is when I learnt just how much you loved her work too!
“Colourful, Bold, Lively”
“My work continuously dissects how economic mobility and class shape the black experience. Many people think that in order to discuss capitalism it must be obvious. Obvious as in painting jewelry and money and just ostentatious things and I understand where they come from because I once believed the same thing as well (example: my painting fine goods make the world go round).”
First question, what is your Instagram handle?
Tell me the story behind this?
My full name is Chinaza Agbor but most of my friends and family call me “chin”. So my Instagram handle is my nickname and my last name.
Tell me about your artist story. How were you trained?
I wasn’t formally trained! I studied science my undergrad years. I’m completely self taught (aside from the art classes I took in high school). So every painting, every drawing I make, I’m teaching myself how I can be better and what I can try next time.
Tell me about your journey to where you are now?
I guess my artist journey is quite unusual. I’m from Texas. I’m American and I’m Nigerian. As most foreign kids relate to, the career paths for me were either medicine, engineering, or law. It was fortunate that for years I actually really enjoyed science and I honestly still do. I was on the path of becoming a doctor up until my junior year of college. Junior year of college I started sketching and painting more after taking a three year break from creating. It was amazing. It was freeing. I had so many ideas and I knew this was a talent I wanted to cultivate and mold for the rest of my life. And long story short, I finished off my science degree and went to London after getting accepted into the RCA. Now I’m fully invested in my craft. I want to get better, I want to try new things all the time. I wake up thinking about art and I go to sleep thinking about it as well.
What is your studio like? Where do you like to create best? What are your artist necessities? What could you not live without?
Right now, I’m working from home right now. I’ve converted my boyfriend and I’s dining room into a temporary studio. The living room has been taking over by packages and prints! I actually have loved creating at home. There’s nothing like creating for hours straight then hoping in bed for a nap or going to the couch to watch some tv. My artist necessities are: my headphones, liquin medium, my comfortable painting clothes, and my snacks. My life essential actually has nothing to do with art. It’s skincare products. I literally can’t imagine a life where I’m not doing a skincare routine or trying new products. It makes me more productive. If I feel well, if I have a routine, I paint better.
What do you listen to while you work?
Mostly RnB and alternative music. My music has to be calming in order for me to paint. I have to be able to get lost in the music and my painting as well. An example of artists that do that is James Blake and Haitus Kaiyote.
Quick one, what 3 words would you use to describe your artwork?
Colorful, bold, lively
Who or what are your biggest influences, and how do you find them? How do these come out in your work?
My biggest influences right now are Kerry James Marshall, Lynette Yiadom-boakye, Wong Kar Wai, and Jenna Gribbon. I find my influences in all different mediums of art. I’m not pigeon holed to just painting. Films and photography inspire the composition of my artwork while the painters and their use of color inspire my work as well.
What do you want your work to say? What are the main themes and motifs running through your work? Is there a narrative that runs throughout?
My work continuously dissects how economic mobility and class shape the black experience. Many people think that in order to discuss capitalism it must be obvious. Obvious as in painting jewelry and money and just ostentatious things and I understand where they come from because I once believed the same thing as well (example: my painting fine goods make the world go round). However, as I’ve read more and understood capitalism more, I realized the very fabric of the black identity and how we live our day to day lives currently, is tied unequivocally to capitalism. When you were once the capital, your reality hardly shifts from that. So when I show a black couple kissing in a bar, I’m discussing capitalism. When I show three children staring at an audience from a beach, I’m discussing capitalism.
Tell me about your use of mixed media? How do you create your work? What is your process?
I mock up all my paintings on my iPad via procreate. The mock up usually is a collage of different references and I place them how I want then I paint on top digitally to bring it all together. The mock up and the painting is never identical. It’s similar, but as I paint I start trying different things, I start making “mistakes” that result in beautiful things. So I never strictly stick to the mock-up.
When I paint I always start off with an underpainting using a lot of liquin and a little oil paint. From there I just paint regularly.
Tell me about your palette. Is colour important to you?
Yes! Color is so so important to me. I naturally have an eye for color and I always know which color to try or add to my painting. But I’m always looking to bend the rules on how I use color. It makes painting very fun.
Chinaza, tell me, what memorable responses have you had to your work? And which artwork would you like people to remember you for?
I actually think my self criticism will always be louder than whatever positive responses I get from people unfortunately… Every painting I make I always think of what I can improve the next painting. If I were to be remembered for an artwork, it would probably be Pink Shoes. I do love that painting.
Tell me about your use of scale? And how you decide a work is complete and requires no more work?
I usually go pretty big. Working smaller is usually a headache. The perfect size is honestly 80x70 cm. Something about that size is so comfortable to me. I actually have no idea now I determine when a work is complete. Sometimes I just know, sometimes I get bored and want to stop so I stop and it still looks good.
How do you think your work has developed throughout your career? And what are your artist career highlights?
Well, I’m still in the beginning of my career but I think so far my work has developed strongly. I’ve paved out my own style influenced by my past works. I took bits of every painting I’ve done and created the style I have now. It’s nice to look at. I’m proud of myself. My career highlights actually haven’t happened yet but I have a few shows soon that I’ll be announcing in a few months.
If you could have a meal with any artist from any time, what would the meal be and who would it be with?
Kerry James Marshall. Period.
What are you working on at the moment Chinaza? And what would be your dream project?
I’m working on three oil paintings. My dream project is actually a painting I’ve already planned out. I’ve stretched out the canvas, it’s absolutely massive. I planned on it to be an immersive experience. A painting where the audience would feel like they didn’t want to turn away from the painting. Hopefully the painting can come into fruition when I finally get into my studio again.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
How much I love vintage clothes! I talk about socialism so much but I love investing in vintage clothes of small brands/designers. Clothing is just as much art as a painting and I love feeling at though I’m a walking piece!
Favourite historical female artist?
If we’re talking art history, I wouldn’t be able to name one off head asides from popular ones that even interest me a little. However, if we’re talking about artists that incorporate history into their art then it’s 100% Kara Walker.
Favourite current practicing female artists?
So many! Sasha Gordon, Lynette Yiadom-boakye, Njideka Crosby, Kara Walker, Jenna Gribbon, Chloe Wise, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Mickalene Thomas, Somaya Critchlow, Karen Machiavelli, Nadia K Waheed, Naudline Cluvie Pierre...I could go on and on...
Who should She Curates interview next (as many as you like!)?