Viral Nigerian artist uses oil painting to tell his story about feeling trapped, his oil portraits capture “the refreshing fluidity of life” as he integrates water in some form into many of his images.
Silas Onoja is a Professional Artist, from Benue, Nigeria, who practices art on a daily basis. He is best known for his oil painting. And, for those who aren’t familiar, oil painting is a form of painting where the artist uses oil color as his/or her medium to paint. In 2017, one of his pieces went viral on social media. Everyone was intrigued by how real his art appeared; it spoke volumes with just a simple glance.
“Every art piece of mine has its own story. in 2018 all the paintings I made were centred on Freedom. By that, I mean mental freedom. I’ve seen how a lot of people have been mentally enslaved in society, so I use my paintings to communicate the need to break free and be mentally free.”
Being mentally enslaved by our society includes working a job you feel you have to in order to make money or an inability to create and be free because you feel trapped by the need to conform.
“I use the plastic bag to represent a form of captivity, because a lot of people have been held captive and, a lot of time, it is by themselves, mentally or otherwise. To some, society held them captive, to others, family, friends, or even themselves. So, there’s that need to breakout, embrace a new world, new ideologies, explore, and strive to be great because there’s no limit to what one can achieve. So generally, that’s what those paintings are talking about.”
Each of Silas’ pieces not only tell a story, but also evoke emotion. It makes you think and ask yourself a thousand questions about the meaning of freedom and the notion of enslavement in our society. His art is so beautiful. He portrays struggle, peace, freedom, and happiness through his painting. Silas is speaking life. You know how they say, “Pictures can speak a thousand words?” Well, Silas’ paintings speak a million and one.
Breakthrough “I was talking about myself in all the freedom series. I was mostly referring to how I was able to breakout against all odds and how my environment tried to hold me back to the point that I had to change and a lot of people said I couldn’t do it”
MEANING IN ART
“For me, art is a way of expressing myself. Art is like a book written in one language but understood by every language, tribe, and even race. Artwork has millions of meaning and interpretation, everyone tends to interpret it in their own way as it relates to them.”
When asked where his inspiration comes from and why he paints mostly children, he said he can best interpret the people from his country because that’s where he grew up.
“My environment inspires me a lot and that’s why it reflects in my paintings. I paint African children because I was born and brought up in Africa, so I can tell the African story better than any other part of the world and also tell the world about Africa through my paintings.”
Silas spoke briefly about his breakthrough painting, stating he was referencing himself throughout the freedom series. His environment tried to hold him back to the point where he had to change. He also added that, even though a lot of people said he couldn’t do it, he believed in himself and the beauty of his dreams.
The main element to his paintings is water. “No matter how stressed out you are, when water pours on your skin, it revives you and gives you a refreshing feeling. I use it in my paintings as a sign of peace and calmness irrespective of the struggle.”
“I paint in layers, that’s after the first coat (first laying of colors), I apply another and proceed with detailing. ”