b. 1995, Nigeria

Collins Obijiaku Artworks

Collins Obijiaku's attention-grabbing portraits of Black subjects recover the tradition of portraiture to immortalise sitters, fixed in a different time, rendered to look back to the viewer.

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Portraying Individuality

For Obijiaku, who would often stay after work at the shopping mall to draw, pencil sketches served as a form of release from the physical exertions of work, eventually developing into a distinct style marked by imaginative and pointed observations of the seemingly homogenous, yet distinct people who went by him.

'When I observe people in spaces, I am looking to memorialize them, and in doing so, I seek to guess their past, present, and potential futures', the artist has said.

Economic Divides

These differences are not only visual, but socio-economic. As the press release for Obijiaku's first solo exhibition Gindin Mangoro: Under the Mango Tree, which was shown at ADA \ contemporary art gallery in Accra, reads: 'the diversity of living conditions from one street to the next ... is the cruellest form.'

The exhibition featured 17 portraits of strangers, many of whom were from his surroundings, re-imagined by the artist rendered in a blend of charcoal, oil, and acrylic. Depicted in resting postures against royal blue and gold backdrops, fingerprint whorls mark bodies and faces adorned with solemn but penetrating expressions.

Representing Blackness

Beyond depicting individual lives, subjects in Obijiaku's portraits are equally vehicles that convey narratives of personal identity and Blackness, not only returning dignity to sitters adorned with symbols characteristic of the leisurely class but re-positioning the Black subject within the art historical canon itself through the act of portraiture.

Among the more overt declarations, Girl with Stud Earring (2022), referencing Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665), shows a young Black woman wearing the piece of jewellery along with a defiant expression, set against an ochre backdrop of the same shade as Vermeer's sitter's jacket.

Subverting Misconceptions

While distinct, Obijiaku's sitters share lingering gazes that hold on to the viewers', glancing over with apathy, surprise, or disdain as if trying to convey a kind of knowing, already aware of how you might see them.

In one untitled portrait from 2020, a Black man with a red afro and a red gown with white dots is rendered with a serious expression as if to evoke the trope of the Black man as the comic, clownish figure, only to overturn it.

Browse Artworks
First Night by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku First Night, 2021 Oil and charcoal on canvas
196.9 x 163.8 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Green Scarf by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Green Scarf, 2022 Oil and charcoal on canvas
191.8 x 163.8 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Untitled by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Untitled, 2021 Oil and charcoal on canvas
118.7 x 100.3 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Red Head II by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Red Head II, 2021 Oil and charcoal on canvas
119.4 x 100.3 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Red Head by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Red Head, 2021 Oil and charcoal on canvas
119.4 x 100.3 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Beggar Paint Field I by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Beggar Paint Field I, 2022 Oil and charcoal on canvas
239.4 x 169.9 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Beggar Paint Field II by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Beggar Paint Field II, 2022 Oil and charcoal on paper
100 x 70 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Untitled by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Untitled, 2022 Oil and charcoal on paper
100 x 70 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Aunt Vivian and Coach by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Aunt Vivian and Coach, 2022 Oil and charcoal on paper
100 x 70 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Untitled by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Untitled, 2022 Oil and charcoal on paper
100 x 70 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Sandra by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Sandra, 2022 Oil and charcoal on paper
100 x 70 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
As You Protect Me, So I You by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku As You Protect Me, So I You, 2022 Oil and charcoal on paper
100 x 70 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Just When I Stepped Out by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku Just When I Stepped Out, 2022 Oil and charcoal on paper
100 x 70 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
White Lace by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Collins Obijiaku White Lace, 2022 Oil and charcoal on paper
100 x 70 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
Untitled (Woman II) by Collins Obijiaku contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Collins Obijiaku Untitled (Woman II), 2021 Oil on paper
100 x 80 cm
Roberts Projects Contact Gallery
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