Renowned visual artist Osinachi’s vibrantly detailed digital work, Abitt: The Second Renaissance is Coming, created during his residency at the Toledo Museum of Art, recently premiered at Christie’s. As the artist’s signature style continues to capture attention, we delve into his practice and philosophy, eagerly anticipating his debut online solo presentation and print release with Unit London in 2024.
“I think about digital art as sort of like the Internet: it is for everyone.”
Osinachi, born Prince Jacon Osinachi Igwe, has earnt his place as one of the foremost artists working with computers today, but his rise to fame was as unconventional as his methods of art-making. While many artists who enter the web3 world have a background in creative coding, proficient with programming languages and algorithmic processes, Osinachi took the world by storm with his meticulously detailed digital collages, crafted using the familiar tools of Microsoft Word.
Envisioning his process as “walking through the streets of the internet”, Osinachi identifies visuals from different websites, before downloading and saving the digital files to serve as the foundational textures for his works. Combining digital drawing tools with snippets of these pre-existing files, he constructs complex compositions that are often inspired by traditional Nigerian textiles. But before any of this can begin, like many great artists, it starts with a vision. Merging imagination with reality, Osinachi presents figures – often modelled on his friends – against bold, bright backgrounds that shift between plain surfaces, elaborate patterns and recognisable symbols.
Osinachi’s embrace of colour, collage and juxtaposition locate his work firmly within the legacy of Pop art, yet the way he celebrates queer culture, sexuality and blackness can be credited to contemporary visionaries such as Devan Shimoyama as well as Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kehinde Wiley and Tschabalala Self whose compositions are dominated by strong black figures, enveloped in layers of varied patterns and vibrant colour palettes.
Always manifested within Osinachi’s playful depictions is a philosophy that presence is protest. By celebrating the idiosyncrasies of individual existence, touching on themes of race, sexuality and androgyny, Osinachi advocates for freedom of identity. Particularly against the backdrop of Nigeria’s anti-LQBTQ laws and restricted freedom of expression, Osinachi’s visual tapestries are powerful forms of resistance, demonstrating that visibility can be an act of defiance.
By intertwining the personal with the collective, and the playful with the profound, Osinachi has captured a global audience, and transcended traditional approaches to the crypto genre. In 2021, his series Different Shades of Water became the first NFTs by a contemporary African artist to be offered at Christie’s Europe, and the first NFT collaboration for 1-54 African Art Fair. By bringing diversity to the digital art space – and transcending its perceived technological barriers to entry – Osinachi is opening the doors to new creators, and setting a precedent for how to engage meaningfully with the medium.
Recently Osinachi served as the inaugural digital artist-in-residence at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. Here, he completed Abitt: The Second Renaissance is Coming, a characteristically vibrant portrait that reflects on his time in Toledo, which was presented and sold by Christie’s during Art Basel Miami. As shapes, patterns and a multitude of perspectives collide, Osinachi blurs the line between analogue and digital, and demonstrates his ability to explore personal memory though abstraction.
The Toledo Museum’s residency also gave Osinachi the creative space to experiment with physical materials such as stained glass, a medium visually linked to his practice of merging vibrant blocks of colour. By inviting digital artists into the museum space, the residency is not only provoking greater institutional recognition for digital art practices, but is encouraging artists – from both the traditional and NFT art spaces – to explore beyond the confines of their preferred medium. Bridging the gap between the traditional and NFT art realms is a mission shared by Osinachi who prefers to introduce himself as a visual artist, who happens to create with a computer.
Osinachi’s debut solo show with Unit London will present a standout series of three new artworks, a continuation of his interest in examining self-identity and lived experience within an increasingly technological world.
These works, however, will also explore lesser charted territory in Osinachi oeuvre, that of humankind’s tragic penchant for destruction. Each artwork explores, albeit playfully, our apathetic approach to repairing and caring for nature by presenting a futuristic vision in it’s place. These works, rendered in Osinachi’s now widely recognised digital pop art aesthetic, further his critical approach to art-making. By inviting us to examine the intersection between identity politics, technology and environmentalism, Osinachi continues to demonstrate how visual art can be a powerful tool to mitigate the problems we face today.