Doncopolitan interviewed artist and creative entrepreneur Chinwe Russell.
Words: Chinwe Russell
Photography: Warren Draper
When did you start painting?
My first attempt at painting was in 2007 after a visit to a Nigerian art market where I fell in love with some of the local art. I brought some of the paintings back to the UK and recreated some of these pieces in my own way. To my surprise, a couple of people commissioned me to paint similar pieces. I have no formal art training, being entirely self-taught and, in fact, I went to business school. In addition to my art, I also run a skin care business for the past several years.
What are your thoughts on Doncaster as a newbie in town?
Doncaster has incredible potential. The people are very friendly and frankly it was quite disturbing at first coming from the south where many people have no time for each other. There is a lot of energy here which is largely under the current. It is easy to make connections with people and there is so much potential for community projects. It feels like a blank canvas. For me as a mum, it is great for my child, with a wide range of affordable arts and culture for children. My daughter was dancing already in France and she has been able to continue her passion for ballet at the amazing Riley School of Dance. In the 18 months we have been in Doncaster, she has made amazing progress. I’d love to do something to support the dance industry in Doncaster as well, as they are largely not known to the public.
Do you enjoy exhibiting as well as supporting others to show their work?
Yes, I do like other artists. Exhibition is really the only way to get your work out there. I also love to work with other artists to help them develop their art career. I guess my business background comes in very handy. In October 2018, I won a place to exhibit at TOAF (The Other Art Fair) in London. I was also one of the 30 female artists curated out of 500 applicants to be part of an arts project titled “Not 30%”. This part protest, part exhibition, highlighted the fact that female artists at most represent only 30% of the male dominated art world. A desire to give myself and the other artists in Doncaster a place to actively sell our work led to me creating the Doncaster Art Fair which is a visual art fair with the aim of bringing artists and buyers directly together. The idea is for the buyers to come and meet the artists and discover what inspires them. It is an amazing feeling to own an original piece of art as it is like owning a piece of the artist’s soul.
Tell me about your art?
My work falls into two categories. My museum/collectors pieces are largely historical and narrative-based themes. I have created work based on various pieces of history from all over the world such as the Spanish Inquisition, the Suffragettes, the Ottoman Empire, the witch trials, the slave trade, Joan of Arc and several others. I also create commercial pieces which cover a range of subjects depending on my interest at the time and the client.
What are you working on at the moment?
It is a very busy time for me as I have several projects on the go. I am more than half way through my target of creating 30 historical themed artworks before the end of the year. I am also preparing for my summer solo exhibition which will take place at the Queens Road Design Centre. I’m equally running a pop-up studio in the Corn Exchange with other local artists, as well as the Doncaster Art Fair which will take place on Sunday the 31st of March (Mothers Day) in conjunction with the opening of the new wool market.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get more involved in the arts here?
Come to the Doncaster arts fair, join The New Fringe. And get involved in Doncopolitan, there’s lots happening in Doncaster.
Follow Doncaster Emerging and professional art fair on Facebook HERE