Osaze Seneferu – Artist Spotlight
Q&A and photography by Ellis Wilson – July 2020
I first met Osaze in 2017 while majoring in film at California College of the Arts – we had a couple classes together and connected, both of us being the only black students in the room. His work speaks on ancestry, the unknown, and identity – he uses various methods and techniques as a metaphor to carve experiences into history and has always been concerned with contemporary moments that show gratefulness and pay homage, by way of ritual, to nuances in his experience as a young black male. About three years ago, I was given the privilege to photograph and explore Osaze's practice – his work emanates personal narratives and pulls the viewer into his internal world while simultaneously commenting on the external.
"I create figurative abstractions. In correlation to my abstract figures I use multiple colors which makes the piece simple but complex. I use color as a form of transformation. I also add finger prints, in an aggressive way to fill in space. In addition to my color I use collage to make my message accessible to the viewer. In addition I also use dripping techniques over the collage to create a moment of intrigue. My compositions range from small to large paintings. I also focus on topics of power, and mind control amongst Black people and humans in general. In my pieces I often use color, and lines as an aura which is a form of transformation in my paintings." – Osaze (2017)
What's new since we last spoke? Any updates on your artist practice? Any new things you've been working on?
I have went back to working on smaller pieces right now. I'm also in the works of getting some of my work into the African American Arts and Culture Complex.
In your own words, what inspired your choice of style?
Basquiat was a huge influence on my work. At the time I was in high school and I had loved the rawness and spontaneity of his work. I really enjoyed trying to figure out what he was saying in his work. Also Charles White was an influence - I love his technique and how he used Blackness as a theme to speak on humanity. Growing up with my father being an artist and root influence on me, I always painted black people and since in some of my work I don't think or plan out anything, I go with what comes to mind and make meaning of it after I'm finished.
What do you hope viewers will take away after seeing your work?
As of now, I have to admit I'm still figuring that out. Of course I want people to feel connected to the work and understand where the connection is made in the artwork but I'm still doing the math.
While studying at California College of the Arts, what challenges or obstacles did you have to navigate and have these challenges influenced your artist practice in any way?
Being at CCA has been difficult more so socially than it has been academically. One, coming into CCA with students that are way more skilled than me was difficult but what made it difficult was how most of the time it would be me or one or two other black people in the class. It’s crazy because at times just walking around campus I would see people staring at me. Some would seem calm about it then some would look frightened or they would act as if I wasn’t present: the usual racist behavior when black males enter white spaces. I have made a couple of pieces based on the experiences I’ve had.
Can you tell us more about your work as a form of therapy and as a form of self-analysis in white environments?
My work is the one moment that I can have where I can be able to sit down and really think about what I want and create what I want. Most of the time, I always have to decide between what the school wants versus what I want and more importantly need to say.
In you artist statement from 2017, you talk about mind control. Can you speak a little bit more on this?
The media is the root of mind control today and is used to keep the masses entertained with bits and pieces of information.
Lastly, what is your earliest memory about hearing about Unilalia?
I first heard about Unilalia from you back at CCA and you explaining your desire to create an art movement. Also, I remember you speaking a lot about how Unilalia was based on the idea of the "spectacle".
You can find more of Osaze Seneferu here.
His work can be purchased at: