Nigerian Artist Paints Realistic Portraits of People Breaking Free From Clear Plastic

Realistic Portraits by Silas Onoja

Nigerian artist Silas Onoja doesn't create ordinary portraits of people. His large-scale paintings take his skills to another level while simultaneously forcing the viewer to interpret what's before them. Each figure is presented, wrapped in or breaking free from a plastic film, absolutely drenched. He emphasizes the delicate textures of human skin doused by droplets of water and the mesmerizing way in which transparent material clings to the body.

“I use plastic to represent the mental bondage or whatever has held them captive,” Onoja explains. “The water represents the refreshing taste of freedom and the calmness freedom brings.” The artist's intention is to represent the “mental bondage” that many people find themselves trapped in. Each portrait is a varied visualization of someone being their own worst enemy and potentially escaping that toxic mentality. It's almost like being reborn. One could also infer that the plastic wrap is much like the glass ceiling that feminists talk about. Except, in this case, it's a clear barrier that Black bodies peer through. There's a sense of relief as Onoja's subjects break free from the transparent enclosure.

From a fine art perspective, the plastic also acts as a frame for each figure's face, guiding the viewer's attention to the oil-rendered eyes, nose, and lips. Onoja believes that hyperrealistic painting offers a more truthful depiction than photography. Some of the young men and women he portrays appear enigmatic and lost in thought, others express feelings of happiness and joy. The eyes of his subjects are particularly evocative, as they seem to glisten with life.

Onoja's exquisite work has been showcased in solo and joint exhibitions throughout Nigeria and Europe with wide acclaim. Scroll down to see more realistic portraits by Onoja, and follow the artist on Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with his latest creations. Prints and original paintings are available for purchase on his website.

Nigerian artist Silas Onoja paints incredibly realistic portraits.

Realistic Portraits by Silas Onoja

His subjects are wrapped plastic wrap that clings to their skin.

Realistic Portraits by Silas Onoja

Onoja says, “The water represents the refreshing taste of freedom and the calmness freedom brings.”

Realistic Portraits by Silas OnojaRealistic Portraits by Silas Onoja

The carefully rendered details make each painting glisten with life.

Realistic Portraits by Silas OnojaRealistic Portraits by Silas OnojaRealistic Portraits by Silas OnojaRealistic Portraits by Silas OnojaRealistic Portraits by Silas OnojaRealistic Portraits by Silas Onoja

Take a look at Onoja's amazing process.


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Silas Onoja: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Silas Onoja.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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