Artist dreams and aspirations: An Interview with Sikelela Owen

I would love a job where I introduced art collectors of varied financial means to early career artists. It would be perfect, if this was linked to a charity which helped young inner city kids. Meanwhile, the reality of my professional career is far from this dream. However, I was especially pleased to receive a VIP private view invite from Sikelela Owens RA graduate, showing her work in The Future Can Wait Exhibition.

This international exhibition was launched by Zavier Ellis and Simon Rumley as an ambitious curated exhibition of emerging to mid – career artists to offer an alternative experience to the traditional gallery and art fair systems.

London has some pretty amazing spaces and I have to say the 22,000 sq. ft. basement at Victoria House in Bloomsbury Square provided an amazing backdrop to showcase paintings, sculptures, installations, videos and photographs produced by over 60 contemporary emerging and established artists.

I arrived at the opening at as I wanted to contemplate the diverse range of artwork on display before I conducted my interview. Sikelela had sent me her artist dossier and I meandered through the space in search of her work. Would I be able to spot her work? I assumed her paintings would be large and I was surprised when I encountered two small paintings; Park Life and 'David in Finsbury Park (looking like manet terido)

Sikelela Owen talks about people and painting

Sikelela Owen and Yewande Okuleye

Sikelela Owen and Yewande Okuleye

 As an early career artist, what is the significance of       being in this show?  

It is a great opportunity.I am really pleased especially as I enjoy a lot of the other work in the show.

Can you explain why family and friends feature in your work? I have always painted what I know. It is also a desire to project things from my everyday into a wider space.I want to make paintings that are about the normal and are not necessarily big statement paintings or compete with media imagery.


Why is this important to you?

A lot of the political happens in the everyday. It is impossible to look at people and their existence without looking at the politics of how they navigate their everyday. It is a small part but my paintings are a kind of social documentary. I want people to see familiar things in them.

What other painters do you relate to?

 I enjoy the work of Alex Katz and Alice Neel in which they produce an impression of broader significance out of personal material. At the moment people draw visual parallels to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, who also features black people in the centre of paintings. This is interesting, as the figures that populate her spaces are made up.  

 Congratulations, I noticed you have sold one of your paintings

Sikelela Owen, Park life, 33.5x25.5cm ,2013.

Sikelela Owen, Park life, 33.5×25.5cm ,2013.

I am really pleased that people seem to be responding well to the work. It is always pleasing when people want to take your work home.

What are your future plans?

I have some interesting projects coming up in York University,Vienna and Frankfurt next year and I am also applying for some emerging artist residencies.

If you want to experience engaging contemporary art or you want to invest in an early career artist, The Future Can Wait Exhibition is a “must see”.Visit Victoria House Basement, Bloomsbury Square.  

It is open to the public (free entry) until Thursday 17 October 2013, 11am –6:00pm.

About Yewande Okuleye

Cultural Historian|Londoner
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  1. I've always enjoyed Sike's work and have seen her develop her artist skills over the years. Great to read this interview! I think you have here one of this country's true talents to look out for.

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