TJ Agbo Is The Bright Future of Visual Art
Tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
TJ Agbo: My name is TJ Agbo. I’m a 25-year-old Black Male artist of Nigerian descent, born and raised in Peckham, South London. I’m an only child, but I have a lot of close cousins who are like my siblings. I mention that last bit because I think it accurately explains why my personality is how it is. I’m very sociable but I need my solitude from time to time.
How has your background shaped who you are as an artist?
TJ Agbo: My background has shaped my artistic trajectory incredibly. I have a natural affinity for abstract art and geometric art but growing up showing art to my family members made me transition more to portraiture; as that was what got the biggest positive response whenever I showed my work. I guess I was subconsciously guided towards portraiture. My love for abstract and geometric art can still be seen in the backgrounds of a lot of my pieces
How do you create your art?
TJ Agbo: I use watercolour, drawing ink, acrylic paint, and fine line pens. I work predominantly on paper but occasionally on canvas, I make abstract paintings on canvas. I work on paper mainly because I am most comfortable drawing and I created a unique style of abstract portraiture by trying to demonstrate the multiple tones of complexion only using a pen. But in a way, I haven’t seen used before.
Do you remember the first time you discovered you wanted to be an artist?
TJ Agbo: I always wanted to be an artist since I was a child. I have always been very visual and into aesthetic. But I made a conscious decision to pursue art full time in 2013 after I finished my A levels and realised that I would suffer a lot if I chose a life that didn’t allow me to create 24/7.
Where did you get the idea to use mosaic-like prints on the muse’s skin?
TJ Agbo: It was a continuous process which took about 3 years to create. Originally, I was using a pen to shade but that wasn’t enough for me, I needed to be different. In short, I assimilated the shaded sections of Toyin Ojih Odutola, the large fluid geometry of George condo and the way Andy Warhol composes spaces with regard to black and white with my own style.
As an artist, are you telling a story of who you are or the story of the person that you’re panting?
TJ Agbo: I would say a bit of both. Some pieces have a story or moment in time revolving around the subject. For other pieces, I feel like I am telling a story of who I am. I put small pieces of myself in every piece but you have to look at a large number of pieces to put the storylines together.
Do you think that art, especially black art, has to be a commentary on social justice?
TJ Agbo: I don’t think so, I think that having that as the standard would be very limiting. As much as I think that the commentary is very necessary, blackness has many different forms and we must allow black art to represent that. As social justice is only a part of the story of black people and not the whole story, I feel that black art needs to be able to reflect that.
How has Covid:19 isolation affected your artistry?
TJ Agbo: It hasn’t affected me in the slightest, I work from home so I am still able to create daily. Life in quarantine is very similar to my life before Covid:19
What do you think is the post-covid:19 future of the art world?
TJ Agbo: I think that the Art world will be completely different, I think Living Artists with a good online presence will have more relevance than ever. I also think that there will be a shift from acquiring old masters for investment purposes to acquiring emerging artists who translate the world they see in a unique way.
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