Arinze Stanley: The New Face of Hyper-realism
Arinze Stanley Egbengwu is a Nigerian artist who focuses on creating hyper-realistic portraits of subjects that are mainly of African descent. At a very early age, his Mother discovered his skill for drawing and every since then Arinze has been creating work that others think are photographs. That belief is a testament to his expertise in using both charcoal and graphite which I witnessed firsthand just last year.
Arinze, I remember the day we met. It was the very last show that Jonathan LeVine Projects had and I was mesmerized by both your skills and lovely demeanor. To have your first solo show at this time in your life speaks volumes to me. Within the hundreds of interviews I have done, a handful have solo shows at your age so a huge congratulations again goes to you again as your talent is remarkable.
Can you kindly tell our audience what the concept behind your first solo show “Mirrors” was about and how you chose your subject matter? How did Jonathan first learn of your talent?
My exhibition 'Mirrors' was an attempt to bring people together and see themselves in a reflection of others. I pick my subject matter as they come to me on a very personal level in my everyday life experiences. Jonathan saw my work on Instagram and was interested in working with me on an exhibition which was later accomplished about a year after we met through social media.
How did you pick charcoal and graphite as your medium of choice as opposed to other mediums to create your hyper realistic portraits? Most of my followers thought your pieces were photographs which is a huge compliment to your skills.
In reality, I would say both charcoal and Graphite chose me. I grew up with my parents in our small home in Lagos Nigeria. My father owned an envelope company and deals a lot in paper, I grew very familiar with paper and it became my toy- sort of- I would make several things like paper planes, paper ships and most interestingly I would draw... a lot. It was something I did purely out of love for the medium.
When did you realize that creating art would be your livelihood as opposed to your engineering background?
In 2012, I had a life changing experience in my school hostel back in the university. I was a victim of military brutality, I couldn't report this to anyone. I couldn't call the police on the military. I felt trapped and afterwards realized that what I had been doing for fun could actually be channeled as my voice and ever since I've been drawing for a reason.
As you are self taught artist- what did your first piece look like and how did you better your skills? Who first noticed your talent?
Yes I believe I am a self taught artist as I have never attended an art training before. It's purely self practice. My first set of drawings weren't the most impressive drawings. I didn't want to settle for less. At a point I tore all my drawings because I didn't think I was good enough. And every time I tore a piece. I would try to make the next one two times better. My mother first noticed my talent when I was about 5 years old.
How has Nigeria embraced as an artist verses other countries? Where do you feel your artwork is most appreciated?
Well, I've received a lot of love from both my home country and internationally although it's a misconception that Nigerians aren't the biggest art lovers but there is a lot of love here.
Seeing your piece at the recent Moniker Art Fair had me smiling from ear to ear. Your talent is so amazing and detailed. I often find myself getting lost in the hair, eyes, hands of your subjects. What is next for you? Any upcoming shows or events?
Thank you so so much. Yes. I am planning on having several shows in the future.
I will have my second group show in Nigeria - the first was in 2016. A London solo exhibition hopefully this year and another solo exhibition in the U.S. Also, my first solo exhibition in Nigeria.
What can you tell me about your work that you have not told another journalist before?
Okayyyy... My love for drawing came with a cost.... sleeplessness. Over the years I have developed a sleeping disorder because I have to go to work in the morning and prefer to work on my pieces only at night when everywhere is calm and cold.
Please tell our audience where they can find more about both you and your work?