Emmie Nume is a Ugandan artist born 1999 and living in Kampala. From March to June 2021 he was an artist-in-residence at Silhouette Projects under Afriart Gallery. Since he began this first residency, he propelled his artistic expression into its own distinct visual language.
His paintings and drawings reflect a deeply intuitive practice. While focusing on portraiture, mainly self-portraiture, he captures the essence of emotions through spontaneous and free expression – devoid of any meticulous formal and academic calculation of his figures and scenes. His ability to combine spontaneous abstraction and figurative complexities speaks of the freedom he grants himself while creating. Mainly working with acrylics on canvas and paper, Emmie Nume adds spontaneous use of collage and found objects and other media and techniques in his works. Inspired by the creativity and innocent investigative spirit of children, his work reflects a playful, childlike approach to art making.
Nume’s personal experiences act as a point of departure for his visual expressions – a language that interrogates the internal, the intimate, as it yields a way to surface the unseen and to communicate to the viewer. The viewer is confronted with the artist’s fragility and vulnerability in a bold manner, almost gives the impression of having witnessed something too intimate. As an attempt to grapple with what can’t be expressed with words, Nume allows the viewer to experience the nuances between depression and love and between the past and present. His visual language is unafraid to evoke those unsettling and uncomfortable emotions in the viewer, making them almost feel like voyeurs peeping into someone’s most fragile existence.
Allowing himself to be an honest and bold observer of himself, he creates powerful and captivating expressions that eventually become crude yet dreamlike reflections of some of human beings’ most crucial moments in life. Emmie Nume is a storyteller, creating figures and scenes with an oozing aura, vulnerable and full of softness and nuance. Empty gazes into nowhere and moments in which the world goes about its usual routine while one’s own seems have come to an uncomfortable standstill, speak, at a closer look, of change and evolution.
About ‘CANDID’ – A series of drawings, 2021
The initial inspiration for the series ‘Candid’, showing here, is drawn from photographs seen on social media, on billboards and elsewhere as well as from photographs taken by the artist. Here, the approach to his subject matter is serendipitous. He did not intentionally look for or take the initial photos, instead, as a conscious observer of his surroundings he acquires a postural or emotional idea from a photograph and then puts the photograph aside. Whatever comes after this step is a chain reaction of the initial impression of the image. He does not study the photo, nor does he like to be overly conscious about the image’s impression on him. Instead he allows for an unknown trajectory as the drawing begins to evolve. In the initial stages, he might not know what facial impression the portrait will assume, whether the eyes will be open or closed or whether it will eventually resemble someone or turn into an imaginative character.
The drawings in this series tend to evoke curiosity in the viewer – be it about emotions, gender, race or other aspects. This openness originates from the artist’s approach to creating as he allows himself to be guided by both, his active as well as his passive thoughts or, in other words, his conscious and subconscious mind. His passion and intention is in the experience, which is the experiment of constant learning and unlearning. Allowing one thought to give birth to another, each thought becoming a season – a layer – within the drawing. A man may turn into what our cultured minds register as a woman, a man into an androgynous being, a smile can become a stare and so on.
Emmie Nume describes himself as “obedient to ideas”. Being someone who thinks deeply and a lot, he tends to get consumed by the train of his thoughts. With his art practice, though, he found a way to remain in charge of his thoughts, and to mindfully experience every layer of them. Creating becomes an act of re-claiming agency over his mind. Hence his art-making can be regarded as an embodied practice and the series Candid is paradigmatic for this approach. “Every creation”, he says, “is a new experience, something new learnt.”