Born in Lagos, Nigeria and raised in the USA, Uzo Njoku (b. 1996) is a breakout painter and determined businesswoman set on bridging the gap between fine art and the commercial world of design. Having received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in Studio Art in 2019, she is now enrolled in the MFA programme at the New York Academy of Art. Njoku originally registered to study Statistics at university yet switched majors as her artistic interests and talents became more apparent.
Although seemingly very detached talents, there are links between art and mathematics that are harmonious. Njoku’s aptitudes in both disciplines have, in conjunction, aided her success as an artist, product designer and businesswoman. An early signifier of victory was her colouring book “The Bluestocking Society,” that celebrated inspirational women of colour. ‘Bluestocking (n.)’ means ‘An intellectual or literary woman, and educated woman interested in books and ideas.’
Njoku’s career continued an upwards trajectory, driven by her relentless work ethic and developing interests. Her systems are finite, only in that she always finishes what she starts. Yet, each time she completes one project, a related offshoot loiters, demanding to be executed too. It seems that with art and mathematics alike, the more one absorbs, the more questions come to mind. This leads to further exploration, and consequently further questions.
Such obsessive and repetitive systems of working bring me to think of the German conceptual artist Hanne Darboven (1941-2009). She was best known for her large-scale minimalist installations which consisted of an exhaustive amount of framed handwritten tables of numbers and equations. The content, however, does not necessarily concern mathematics but instead documents processes of infinite continuation.
There is a beauty in this intellectual compulsion and unwavering dedication to searching for answers. I’m sure many can understand or relate to this need to find clarity or to reach an apex of understanding. Artists might find themselves deep in abstract conceptual thought, with the only outlet being habitual production. Often it is the only way to make sense of theoretical thought, being a form of writing without describing. As much as the artist is enveloped, so is the viewer. Working amongst and through the masses, things become clearer and clearer.
It remains obvious that many of the core dexterities in art and mathematics are closely related. Such talents include spatial reasoning, reading geometry and shapes, and recognizing patterns. Maths can support in demonstrating comprehensive visualizations of intangible concepts, an inclusive graphic vocabulary. With this said, these fascinating systems of working which produce stimulating visual glossaries are impressive viewing but remain challenging to analyse and infinitely open-ended.