Art, music and fashion remain the most relatable and compelling ways of human expression. From time immemorial, art has been used as the most effective medium to preserve and immortalise a people’s story, and artists in various forms remain the most influential drivers of culture and cultural change.
Vivian Timothy is simply one artist you can’t forget in a hurry after just one encounter. Vivian’s painting and personality came to the limelight in 2016, featuring on exhibitions around the world – including UK’s parliament, the United States and her hometown, Germany. The self-taught artist has remained unique and has pleasantly continued to take her audience by surprise with each painting.
Heavily laced with African accents, narratives and landscapes, each piece of painting has retained a specific rhythm that takes its beats from politics, fashion and womanhood. Loudly and unequivocally speaking truth to the inhumane treatment of both human and natural resources of Africa by both African leaders and foreign powers. Vivian’s painting epitomises the African woman whether, in her pain or her affluence, each piece strongly shows the African woman’s beauty and glory.
Vivian Chioma has inked her name among artists in history who have influenced their time. Born and raised in Mbaise, a famous Igbo town in Nigeria, Vivian Chioma Timothy is the 7th child of 8 children of her parents.
She had always wanted to go into arts of every kind, music, fashion also painting, but was not allowed by her parents because ‘art is not a proper profession for a woman’. She then decided to study biochemistry but didn’t finish before travelling to Germany to pursue her dream.
However, arriving in Germany, the challenges she met there made her forget the reason for her for making the journey. Fortunately, one fateful day, Vivian met an old Polish friend and her buried dreams and talent due to the challenges she met in Germany resurrected back.
The married mother of one lives with her family in Germany.
In this interview, Faustina Anyanwu explores Vivian’s relationship with her work, explaining the relationship between her personality, interests, cultures and relationships with her work.
Get to know her …
Most of your paintings are fashionable. How much does fashion influence your work?
Fashion is art and art is fashion. I call it loves a love affair between Art and Fashion. Artists are fascinated by colours, curious about form shape and space, intrigued by social, historical and cultural references, and therefore find themselves drawn to fashion, Fashion shows, Fashion houses, designers, and other fashion-related events. Apparently, Art and fashion go hand in hand.
What do you do when a project just isn’t going the way you had anticipated?
Anyone who attempts to build great things will surely face challenges. Without setbacks, there is no triumph. Instead of focusing on the setbacks and allowing it to crush me, I learn and grow stronger from it. Every loss is a learning opportunity and if you stay strong you can thrive because of it. My motto is “ENJOY THE PROCESS WHILE FOCUSING ON YOUR BIG PICTURE”.
Tell me of the pivotal moment when you decided to embrace your artistic talent.
I have always loved the art of every kind, textile, fashion, paintings, music, paintings and sculpture. But I was not allowed to embrace it due to the environment I grew up in. I had to bury my artistic-self until the visit of an old-time Polish Friend in May 2013 who was doing hobby painting at the time and instantly it struck me like lightning. Immediately the artist in me resurrected.
I never imagined that the pieces I created would ever be accepted outside of the comfort of my home. Only after my friend convinced me to showcase my work did I find the courage to share my art with the world outside.
To fast forward, finding myself outside the shores of my country Nigeria offered me the opportunity to express my creative abilities, and for that, I am grateful to God.
You grew up in Nigerian but discovered your painting talent in Germany. Has the difference in culture had anything effect on your paintings?
Yes, positively. I have successfully embraced both cultures which have given me a broad range of inspiration thereby enhancing my creative expression.
What are the current paintings you are working on and how have these works developed from previous work?
I have always believed that we have to know our past to be able to control our future. For us to change the narrative we have to equip ourselves with our history.
My current painting series are ANCESTRAL AWAKENING, MELANIN BEAUTY, THE UNBROKEN, ILLUSION OF FREEDOM, THE SPACE IN BETWEEN and many others. It’s all about reconnecting back to our roots because people will not look forward to posterity who never looks back to their ancestors. The art of the people is the mirror of their mind.
Do you have any form of work routine?
How I wish I had a work routine. It would make life much easier for me. Unfortunately, I do not have a work routine. I am an intuitive painter driven by inspiration. I roll with the flow. It comes when it comes and goes when it goes.
How would you describe your lifestyle and has your lifestyle influenced your career as an artist?
Yes, it has. I thrive in solitude but I have never been afraid to express the person that I am even as a stammerer. I am a passionate, subtle but a very persuasive person. When I am passionate about something I go for it. I’ve always believed that there might be some closed doors but there is always an open window. Resilience is my key to success and it has influenced my career as an Artist.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I am a chaotic painter. I first have to feel it in the stomach. It feels like thousands of butterflies in the hollow of my belly- about to embark on their virgin fly.
Like a pressure that suddenly erupts into creative oblivion. Then comes the passion to immerse me in chaos in order to transform inspiration into form. This is where my fear and pain coincide. The blank canvas demands me to exceed myself to grow beyond my current self. Sometimes I fail. This pisses me off that I want to quit but the resilient me always wins. In the process of creating a piece of Art, I burn some aspect of me to give birth to something new.
What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
TEARS OF THE INNOCENT (Broken Vessel Painting Series) I felt the pains of the victims while painting them. It was very emotional.
Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?
Ada Udechukwu, Bruce Onobrakprya, Gehard Ritchter, Ben Enwonwu(Rip) and Vincent Van Gogh (Self-taught Artist Rip)
Does your work involve digital production at all or are they entirely handmade?
They are entirely self/handmade artworks.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
Yes! So many times. Painting Artist is not necessarily a lucrative job/career. My passion as an artist and focusing on the BIG PICTURE is what keeps me going.
What are the challenges you’ve faced as an artist and how have you navigated through them?
Financial challenges. My Career as a Painting Artist is very cost-intensive but I am lucky to have a supportive husband. I could not have made it so far in a short time without his support.
What advice would you give to a young artist following in your steps?
We can have wonderful talents and gifts, but for us to use these gifts/ talent highly effective, we must move from striving to thriving. This is where we need the knowledge to upgrade and position ourselves to maintain this level of excellence in our career. This is why we need to attend conferences, seminars and workshops to teach us how to be highly effective in our various fields. We need the knowledge to grow because knowledge is power.
Don’t let fear hold you back.
Don’t wait until the right time comes, because it might never come.
The right time is now.
Start where you are.
Use what you have, your gift!
Do what you can and the Universe will embrace you.
Why do you love what you do?
I love what I do because it gives me a sense of pride culturally.
I love what I do because it helped me to find my true purpose and identity.
As a stammerer, I express on canvas what I can’t express in words. Painting has liberated me from Earth-core-deep where my inner self was shackled, where I was shackled.
It has brought me finally safe in my own space.
Safe in my realm of tranquillity, a lonely but magical place where time no longer exists, where I am still evolving as a person.
Do you receive as much interest in your work as you expect?
Yes, I do. Even if I don’t receive the attention I have expected I still turn it into my learning process, it’s all gain. The Forbes list of the wealthiest people on the planet is filled with individuals who turned their losses into learning opportunities and their failures into success.