Studio International

Published 24/08/2021

Nneka Uzoigwe – interview: ‘I find plein air painting extraordinary because there’s so much information to capture and there are so many elements’

The artist talks about her residency at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village responding to the work of Henry Scott Tuke – both his plein air paintings of boys on the beach, but also his interest in mythology


After studying fashion design at the University of Brighton, Nneka Uzoigwe (b1990) retrained as a painter at London Fine Art Studios – where she continues to teach – learning in the traditional atelier method, working directly from life models, studying Greek and Roman plaster casts and learning from master painters. She received the De Laszlo Foundation Scholarship (2016 and 2017), the De Laszlo Award at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition (2020) and the Green & Stone Art Prize (2020), thanks to which she has a solo exhibition coming up at its gallery space in September.


This summer, however, Uzoigwe has been travelling between her London studio; Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village just outside Guildford, Surrey, where she has been artist-in-residence – with her own studio, painted especially to suit her needs (white studio walls, she explains, make it impossible to work); and Brighton, where she spent two days on the nudist beach painting a couple of male friends for one of her three large-scale paintings forming a part of her project proposal for the residency.


Coinciding with an exhibition of the work of Henry Scott Tuke, Uzoigwe’s residency responds to his paintings of young boys on the beach – “a snapshot of childhood” – as well as to his lesser-known interest in mythology, which she really develops in her own work, encompassing not only Greek tradition, but also the Japanese god of fisherman Ebisu.


Studio International spoke to Uzoigwe, via Zoom, during her residency, about her ideas for the project, her interest in mythology, growing up with the sea, and the challenges and joys of painting en plein air.

Nneka Uzoigwe
Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, Surrey
Residency: 1 June – 31 August 2021
Exhibition: 25 August - 12 September 2021.

Nneka Uzoigwe: Waking Dream
The Gallery at Green & Stone, London
5 – 18 September 2021

Interview by ANNA McNAY