Artist Chidy Wayne on How Doubt and Uncertainty Guide His Hand

Barcelona-based artist Chidy Wayne boasts an assured hand, honed from years of sketching as a former fashion designer and from working for over a decade as an illustrator commissioned by big brands like Nike and Kinfolk. Now a celebrated artist with his own studio practice (he’s preparing for several upcoming solo exhibitions and just released his first monograph), Wayne’s gestural paintings often start from a place of naïveté, searching for truth through a lack of certainty and steadfastness.

“I close my eyes and pretend I can’t draw to truly connect with myself,” he admits to me over Zoom. The Surrealists and the Dadaists, who believed that childlike aspects and our subconscious held the key to truth, had similar intentions with their Automatic Drawings, Exquisite Corpse and other drawing games. Picasso’s one-line drawings or Ellsworth Kelly’s simple plant outlines similarly capture the effect of simplicity to truth in representation.

Wayne appears surprised at these art historical comparisons during our interview, but later, when I prompt him to tell me more about his childhood, he confesses that he grew up in the Gulf of Guinea with a Picasso poster in his bedroom featuring the artist’s simple but evocative outlines of leaping players with limbs and head like starfish. When he moved to Castellone, Spain, at the age of eight, his parents plastered an entire wall of their house with Salvador Dali postcards: “Even though my parents weren’t artists, I had a mini-museum at home.” At school and at home, he partook in the handicrafts endemic to the region, cultivating a confidence with his hands as he began to harness his skill for drawing.

The hand, in both concept and image, continues to play an outsized role in his work, as Wayne has devoted an entire body of work to picturing a single hand. At his most recent show in New York, which was on view throughout December, a large white canvas was devoted to a close-cropped, Egon Schiele-esque black outline of a hand, palm up and held somewhere between a closed fist and an open palm. The entire process of creating the canvas was a search, as Wayne added multiple layers of pigment and mixed media over the canvas. The final work was achieved in a process that was both additive and subtractive as the white pigment was uncovered to reveal the black outline of the hand.

Another important motif in Wayne’s work are images of pairs of wrestlers. Modeled after images of ancient Greek and Roman or Senegalese folkstyle wrestlers, the grappling wrestlers symbolize the push and pull within us. Like an indiscriminate fate line of a palm or the constant shuffling, unfixed position of a wrestler, Chidy Wayne seeks uncertainty: “I have no answers but every time I do a painting I get closer, just by asking those questions again and again. Its an exercise.”

Top photo: Apartment by Isabel Francoy & Anna Enrich, styled by Santa Living © Javi Dardo

© Manolo Yllera

© German Saiz

© Pablo de Pastors

© Studio Brinth

© Chidy Wayne

© César Segarra

© Clemente Vergara

© César Segarra

© Gus & Lo

© Maral Fard