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Dropping By: exploring Nneka Uzoigwe’s marvellous magical realism at her Battersea studio

The London-based painter walks us through her wondrous waking dreams as she explores the meaning of home in our latest film

Jan Vrhovnik
Dropping By: exploring Nneka Uzoigwe’s marvellous magical realism at her Battersea studio

A girl, her ears hung with two fat-bottomed pears, gives a thousand-yard stare; a man crawls on the floor, a leviathan conch shell weighing him down; a pair of faceless figures – part-mermaids, part-dervishes – whirl in a gyre of frothing sea foam: this is the dreamworld conjured by Nneka Uzoigwe, a painter whose art is underpinned by magical imaginings.

While she likes to paint from life, Nneka works as much from her mind when creating her visionary pictures. Like waking dreams, they meld the real with the surreal, the concrete with the curious, forcing the viewer to question what they believe they see – whether that’s a knitted piece of fruit or a shell-shaped doorknob.

“Ever since I can remember,” the artist tells us, while explaining the source of her inspiration, “I’ve always had these calm… very loving dreams.” Often, memory is woven seamlessly into the fabric of her imagery. One recurring vision is that of water lapping up against the window of her grandmother’s house in Ireland, a motif that finds its expression in a number of Nneka’s quiet, poetic paintings. They may not make true sense in a wakeful world, but they’re wildly beautiful.

Born in Nigeria in 1990, Nneka – who is the recent recipient of two awards by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and is represented by Panter & Hall – had a peripatetic childhood; as a consequence, she says she feels “more a person of the world” than anything else. Home, to this nimble-minded artist “is where you make it”. Right now, that’s London, a place she has forever yearned to live in. “I always saw it as this big, exciting place and I’ve always been trying to get to it.” Her workspace, which we recently visited, forms part of London Fine Art Studios in Battersea, where Nneka trained and now teaches part-time. It’s an almost hallowed room, luminous (despite its moss-green walls) and filled with unexpected objects. One can see how the space informs her glowing, chimerical creations.

Join us as we take a tour of her inspirational inner sanctum in our latest film. And make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel. It may only be young, but over the coming months, we’ll be bringing you more dreamy content to help you while away the wintery days. Enjoy!

Further reading

Inigo’s YouTube channel

Nneka Uzoigwe

Nneka Uzoigwe on Instagram

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