Artist of the Month: September 2018

Nnena Kalu

Each month we choose one of the fantastic artists represented on our website to be our Artist of the Month.

This month it is Nnena Kalu whose work will be exhibited as part of Outside In: Discover at Cerno Capital which opens on 19 September.

Here Charlotte Hollinshead, who is Nnena's artist facilitator and supports her in the studio, tells us more.

Please outline Nnena’s artistic journey

Nnena joined the ActionSpace south London Studio at Studio Voltaire in 1999. Over the last 19 years she has fine-tuned her arts practice and developed an extensive portfolio of work, both 2D and sculptural. In recent years Nnena has developed a series of significant sculptural installation works in both public settings and gallery spaces including site specific installations for the ‘Dizziness of Freedom’ exhibition at the Bermondsey Project Space and ‘Watch This Space’ at the Southside Shopping Centre in 2015 and 2016. 

Nnena Kalu: Leeds and Bradford

Nnena was invited by Mad Musee to develop a large-scale installation for the Capharnaum’ exhibition at the Theatre de Liege in 2016 as part of a group show alongside Pascal Tassini, Selbermann and Hendrick Heffnick. In 2018 Nnena had her first solo show at the Project Ability Gallery in Glasgow, part of the Glasgow International Arts Festival. Nnena developed her sculptural installation over a 7 day live install so the public could observe Nnena’s unique creative process and the work itself developing. Nnena was also shortlisted for the Spectrum Arts Prize in 2018 and exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery. Nnena has led participatory workshops base on her sculptural practice, sharing her process with participants during Watch This Space and at the Wellcome Trust.

Nnena Kalu: Worcester and the Malverns

How would you describe her creative process?

Nnena Kalu binds and layers materials together. Driven by an instinctive and determined urge to build repeated marks and forms she creates raw and intense artworks. Since 2010 Nnena has created a vast number of sculptural forms of varying sizes; from collections of small, tightly constructed pods and cocoons to large, complex pieces. The frequently ephemeral nature of her work adds to its beauty as it lives in the moment. There is no narrative to Nnena’s work, it is pure form and her compelling, constantly evolving sculptures and installations bring the process of making to life. 

Nnena approaches 2D work with the same passion and systematic layering, creating dense layers of colour and shifting lines. Throughout her practice the physical connection to her work whilst making is crucial.

Nnena responds to the rhythm and noise of creating so the whole process becomes fully immersive and determines the shape, style and nature of each piece.

What are the key qualities of her artworks?

Over time Nnena has refined her approach to developing her installation work but all begin by attaching smaller ‘starter’ cocoons to the space or structure. She then adds to her cocoons, layering favourite materials such as plastics, tapes, and wool and binding them together to create complex wrapped forms.

Nnena Kalu: West London

How has it developed or changed in the time you’ve known her?

Nnena’s work has gradually evolved to become a highly-refined process. The energy in the work remains raw yet the work itself has become tighter and more focused. Over time Nnena’s process has shifted and expanded. Initially Nnena seemed to be mainly driven by colour and repetition. She is now also clearly driven by rhythm and movement. Once she establishes a satisfying rhythm Nnena will often work with her eyes shut, especially when drawing. When she hits this zone, she seems to allow the materials to guide her and she becomes one with her work. 

Nnena Kalu: Chichester and The Downs

In recent years, it has become clear Nnena thrives when given a public platform to develop and share her practice, this has led to her developing multiple live installations including her solo show in Glasgow.

What role does art play in Nnena’s life?

Art is a vital and key element in Nnena’s life, she is prolific, working in the studio two solid days a week with a determined passion for her work.

To see Nnena's online gallery of work, click HERE