It’s only fitting that the next rising star of the art world would hail from Ogun State, theGateway to Nigeria. Because if Damilola Olusegun has her way, her work in theinternational arts community will spark the necessary support for the growing artistcommunity in her country. Born and raised in Sagamu - an industrial and agricultural citylocated about 70km from Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city - Damilola’s love of art wassomething her father first recognized and encouraged when she was a teenager. But itwasn’t until a few months after his untimely death in late 2016 that she chose to hone herskills and pursue art seriously as a way to honor her father’s memory. Fully self-thought, sherelied on YouTube tutorials to learn the techniques she admired in the work of establishedartists. She quickly settled on portraits as her preferred style. As she studied technique, shealso studied style and would draw inspiration from a variety of artists - most notably fellowNigerian Ken Nwadiogbu who led her towards her love of charcoal (and occasionallygraphite) as a medium; and Clio Newton and Juliane Berge, whose worked swayedDamilola towards working uniquely on large-scale canvases.In 2018, having amassed a collection of work she felt ready to present to the world,Damilola found herself at an impasse: where DOES a young artist showcase their work inOgun State? Unable to find an answer, she organized the first ever art show at her college -an academy of science, where she was studying microbiology. Using her own money andrecruiting her mother and siblings as her support staff, she opened the show as anopportunity for other creatives from her school - including photographers and makeupartists - as well as artists from other schools. The reactions she received let her know thatshe was on the right track and she began submitting her work to open calls around theworld. A year later, she would be named the Best Young Visual Artist of 2019 by TheEveryday Chapter.While she doesn’t appear in her work, Damilola infuses every portrait with an emotionalstory that can be felt by any viewer. Her work captures the grief of losing her father, thedifficulty of pursuing any dream when finances are unsteady; it captures the universalheartbreaks, frustrations and lessons of young adulthood. But Damilola also makes sure toconvey hope, joy and love through her work. “I’ve started incorporating flowers into mywork,” she says. “I love the visual contrast of these colorful flowers against a black and whiteportrait. But the flowers are also a reminder that even in the darkest moments, there isbeauty at every turn.” Now that she has hit her artistic stride, Damilola is seeking residenciesacross the world, with a goal far beyond the exposure it will bring her personally. “There is asmall community of artists here in Nigeria, but we’re still trying to get people’s attention,”she explains. “That’s why I push so hard to establish myself within the global community: Iwant to use my personal success to help bring recognition to other Nigerian artists.” To thatend, Damilola also mentors other young artists, teaching virtual and in person classes inhopes of fostering in others the love of art that was nurtured in her.At just 23 years old, Damilola Olusegun is poised and prepared to bring the art world toNigeria.
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