Winner of the Bridgeman Artist Award 2019, Ken Nwadiogbu is a London-based multidisciplinary artist. His practice incorporates both the hyperreal and the conceptual, implementing a variety of techniques to engage with varying modes of storytelling.
"Central to my artistic practice and vision is an unyielding emphasis on the self as a primary source of inspiration and expression… My endless fascination with the human psyche and how we can interpret our varied experiences are at the core of my work as an artist."
Born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1994, Ken became a trained civil engineer at the University of Lagos, though he soon developed an interest in fine art. Nwadiogbu arrived in London in 2022, after making the decision to further pursue his artistic studies at the Royal College of Art. It is a decision that has greatly influenced not just his approach to making art, but also his wider sense of self and the ways in which he relates to and understands the world.
He often uses large canvases, upon which he creates layers of stories. The issues which he investigates within his work include identity, displacement, gender equality and black representation. These socio-political factors underpin his pieces. He builds upon these notions to form inventive and intelligent depictions of social issues, subsequently encouraging the audience to consider their own stance on such matters. Ken ultimately believes that ‘value lies in the perspective’.
His latest body of work is drawn from photographs Nwadiogbu has taken in the UK, of his friends, family and other members of the Black immigrant community. Rather than simply recreating the photographic image, however, Nwadiogbu zooms in on specific details, highlighting the vivid emotional residue that endures after a moment has passed.
A core intention which supports Ken’s creative practice is his aspiration to construct a language of emotional universality, resonating beyond traditional visual representations. This concept is vital to his work, as he ultimately seeks to ‘investigate the very essence of our shared human experience. This involves the fusion of reflection upon personal experiences and the absorption of more general social commentary. Ken enjoys the way in which this aspect of his art opens up a dialogue between the artist and the audience, almost creating a stream of consciousness.
His largest solo exhibition to date opens this October at Kristin Hjellegarde. A series of figures – rendered in a blazing color palette of red, orange and yellow – emerge from or descend into textured, abstract backgrounds. These are the personal memories of the London-based, Nigerian artist Ken Nwadiogbu – portraits of ephemeral moments that have burnt themselves into his mind and continue to shape his perspective of the world around him. Fragments of reality, Nwadiogbu’s first solo exhibition at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, reflects on the artist’s experiences of adjusting to life in London, of building a sense of community and longing for home. The exhibition is curated by Dolly Kola-Balogun in collaboration with Retro Africa.
Ken has exhibited internationally including Thinkspace’s ‘Ubuntu’ in Los Angeles in 2021, ‘A Different Perspective’ at Retro Africa in Abuja in 2022, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2023 and the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair London. His work has also recently featured in ‘Top Boy’, a collaboration with Netflix and Intermission Films. He was also recipient of the Future Awards Africa.