In conversation with Lawrence Meju


The Human Experience

In his colourful and organic-shaped paper works, the young Nigerian artist
Lawrence Meju portrays his subjects in intimate, surreal spaces of
daily life. For Suboart Magazine, he took his time to talk about
his art, the many benefits of working with paper
and his hopes for the future.


For people who don’t know you yet, Lawrence, please tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got into art.

My name is Lawrence Meju, I am an artist from Nigeria currently studying Architecture. I like to add a little spice to the work that I do but also keep it really calm – an interesting synergy. I’ve been about the arts for as long as I can remember, my experience with the action figures, comics, and craft classes growing up stirred up that fire in me and my parents were equally very supportive. Art was really like a hobby for me all those years. I made time to study some art and artists, and I eventually created some just because I enjoyed it. I only took it up professionally in 2020.

Please tell us a bit more about your work.

Well, the short answer would be that I create visually stimulating pieces that capture scenes in our daily life and explore our human psyche in a vibrant, eclectic manner. I have been exploring creating what I want to see and what I can make people see, the possibilities are major.

My conception of “Extranormal portraits” started out as a playful approach to portraiture and over time, it has evolved into something more. I portray my subjects in intimate, meditative, and surreal spaces sometimes with the aim of satirizing some narratives and social profiling. Sometimes I just create looking to blur the lines defining what art could be. I am developing a visual language that is quite indicative of me and keeping my inner child alive.

Mindscape, cloudscape, 2021
Paper on Paper, 60 x 50 cm
Stuck in Limbo, 2021
Paper on Paper & Acrylic, 60 x 50 cm

Even though you also work digitally, I saw that many of your works are made entirely of paper cuttings- how did you get into working with paper?

Oh, this is a very interesting story. I started working with paper this way back in 2020 during the lockdown and prior to that, I made mostly pencil drawings and greeting cards. One day I had run out of this particular paper I used to draw and I had the strong urge to create something so I found these offcut papers from when I made cards and I thought to make something with them. A couple of sketches later, I made the first of the extranormal portraits and it looked so good! Initially, I was a bit uncomfortable about it but I leaned into that discomfort because I wanted to see it through. I kept it down to three colours and I wanted to see other colour configurations – like Andy Warhol’s prints – so I made those. I was really psyched up at the time, it was a eureka moment.

You use very organic, soft & rounded forms in your work. Did that just happen or is it intended?

Oh yes, I’ll say it is. A lot of my works lately have been human-centric and the underlying idea is that I am looking to present my ideas quite simply without ridding them of their essence. So, I break the human form down into really simple, pure forms to make that work. Sometimes I add a little oomph to it by introducing strong geometric forms. Tweaking it is necessary sometimes and the rules are quite fluid for me.

When conceiving and materializing a work, do you have the future viewer in mind or are you solely focused on the piece?

I think there’s a bit of balance for me. For instance, I started creating pieces I want to see, reimagining scenes and I never looked back. It came with a lot more freedom and I think, in that case, the pieces I create will appeal to viewers on the lookout for something uncommon. The context still matters in some cases anyway.

Pseudo Presence, 2021
Paper on Paper, 60 x 50 cm

Are you usually trying to get some kind of message across with your images or do you like people having their own interpretation of your works?

It is actually all of this…and more. Quite often there’s a message the moment I start creating the work and when there isn’t that’s absolutely cool too. I like to know people’s interpretations of my works, it’s really fascinating stuff. It’s like getting a front seat to experience another main character and a whole different dimension from yours with your art piece as the subject matter.

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