Kanna Anigbogu is a contemporary visual artist based in Toronto. He spoke to us about his art, experience in the Indie Studio Residency program and his art practice is an act of faith rooted in emotional truths. This past summer, Kanna was one of two artists selected to create a limited edition, custom-made mask by our BFF BYOM. You can buy his mask, Afrosequential, here.
I do visual art for the most part, with themes that are usually based on the human experience, community and it also involves the use of symbols or motifs inspired by my Igbo Southeastern Nigerian heritage.
I try to recreate symbols that speak to the human condition, the role of community, moments of culture and sometimes the role of spirituality which includes a lot of line work and a lot of gestural imagery.
I was looking for a space where I could work, where I could as an artist develop my practice outside of my home and also a community where there were other artists too and a place that could nurture emerging artists like myself.
For someone like me who wasn’t very secure in my practice yet, I needed a place to be able to just hold all of that. A friend of mine, Alia [Ettienne], mentioned SKETCH and told me about this thing called Indie Studio where you can decide for yourself what your practice is and develop in that way. So I decided to apply and I got in.
I don’t usually have a particular idea set yet when starting the creative process. I’m also a very analytical and creative person, so to get past that I need to start with a line. It’s a process of faith to be honest because if I go full-on and think this is what I want to do, it’s not going to get done. So I usually have to start with the line and keep going.
I start off with a line and continue that process. Then during the process of using that one line, I get a feel for what should go above the line or what else to incorporate, either a dot, stripes, gestures or colour. Sometimes the linework isn’t in the final piece.
I never really know what to start out with, its never really clear but I just start with the line to get past that mental block and keep going. Eventually, the rest unfolds as the piece develops.
I also find that the environment affects the kind of work that I produce. For example, if a place has too many people, it affects the kind of work I produce in different ways, depending on who’s around me. So it’s important for me to put myself in a controlled setting with minimum stimulation, or a mental state in terms of listening to one continuous sound or complete silence. It actually helps my process and creates the best conditions for me to do work.
I’m always very surprised at how the pieces turned out because like I said it’s an act of faith, I’m never really content with what I think I’m going to do and that stresses me out, but once I start with the line, I keep going.
Usually, I’m inspired by feelings, ambience and emotional truth. A lot of the things guiding our day-to-day are ultimately are based on emotions. Emotional truths are that space where you’re fighting between honouring traditions while understanding your particular emotional vulnerabilities and nuances and being willing to choose what works. So just those little moments where someone listens to a particular song and doesn’t even know why it affects them but it does is one example of an emotional truth.
Being able to experience other people’s art is a way to see how someone tries to translate their own experience of emotional truths in their art. I see what they’re trying to say with their art, I feel it, and it creates room to speak about those experiences we may not always vocalize.
There are a few artists who can capture those emotional truths who I really admire, whether with visual composition or abstract work. Some examples are Pascal Campion and an artist from Nigeria named Victor Ekpuk. He uses symbolism but the way he uses it, it’s almost playful, inventive, very raw and honest and I like that.
I hope my art does that eventually when I’m able to actually capture those moments either from an abstract or from an actual literal perspective.
Art has helped me navigate depression and there were moments where the depression and anxiety made me ineffective. So, to be able to do the art and watch myself go through and express or at least ease off some of the pressure within me has helped. It also teaches me to trust myself and to have faith in the process. And in everything else. My life is a line. Everyone’s life is a line. The curvier, the more interesting I hope.
Art has given me a platform to express myself, for when the words aren’t right or enough.
Follow Kanna’s work on Instagram @kannaanigbogu.