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Kip Omolade & his hyper-realistic Diovadiova Chrome series

Kip Omolade is a mixed media artist famous for his stunning futuristic portraits inspired by his Nigerian heritage. Born and raised in New York, Omolade began his career as a graffiti artist while interning at Marvel Comics, and has since gone on to partner with the likes of Sony Music, Red Bull and Nike. 

His latest work pays homage to African cultural traditions whilst combining contemporary materials, methods and themes. The series, titled 'Diovadiova Chrome' is a sequence of hyper-realistic oil paintings depicting chrome female masks on bright, saturated backgrounds. The process involves Omolade making a mold and cast of each model’s face, reworking to produce a version in resin and adding a chrome layer with artificial eyelashes. The final sculpture then serves as a model for the oil painting portraiture, which can measure an impressive several feet tall. The end result is spectacular!

We speak to Omolade to delve into the meaning behind his paintings, and find out a little more about what his African heritage means to him:

Do you have a "mission" as an artist and if so what is it?

My mission as an artist is to be a conduit between imagination and reality.

What does the title of your latest series ‘Diovadiova Chrome’ mean?

Diovadiova is a name I developed. It’s made from the Italian word for god (dio) and (diva) the word for goddess in the historic sense. Chrome symbolizes the reflective surfaces I use and notions of luxury.

Diovadiova Chrome Kitty & Joyce

Diovadiova Chrome Joyce II & Kitty Cash V 

What messages are you trying to portray in the series of portraits? How do they connect to Africa?

I am trying to portray a universal sense of humanity with my portraits. They connect to ancient West African Ife sculptures and their dignified portrayal of rulers and deities.

How much inspiration did you take from traditional African masks and sculptures?

During my high school internship at The Center for African Art in New York City, I learned about the symbolism and emotional impact of various African masks. Although I sculpt and paint in a realistic way, I’m trying to convey spirituality and soul. This approach is directly related to the facial expressions, and designs of traditional African masks.

Kip Omolade in his studio

Kip Omolade in his art studio 

Why did you choose to focus on female faces?

I wanted to link my work to historical portraits. Throughout history, female faces have been used as benchmarks of any given culture and time. My Diovadiova Chrome portraits of women are my contemporary versions of Nefertiti and Mona Lisa.

Having lived in America all your life how strong is your connection to Africa and how important is it for you to establish this through your work?

Although I’ve lived in America my whole life, my connection to Africa is everything to me. My family purposely redefined our identity by using African names. As an artist, it’s equally important that my work also represents my heritage. This is why I primarily use women of African descent as models.

Diovadiova Chrome Karyn

Diovadiova Chrome Karyn IX & Karyn VIII

Do you feel like anything’s changed in terms of how people are seeing and receiving African art globally?

Today it’s interesting to see how African art is shared online via social media. African artists are using techniques like hyper-realistic painting and drawing, collage, sculpture, performance art etc. to express themselves. Through Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, I think people are seeing more varied views of African artists.

You can find out more about Omolade and scroll through his stunning Diovadiova Chrome portraits on the Kip Omolade website

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If you enjoyed reading this article, you may be interested in reading about fellow Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo and his ‘Afromysterics’ style of work, or browsing through our Africa Inspires blog series

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