a man in a blue shirt and yellow pants crouches down in front of a blue car

“First Ride” (2023). Photo by Fabrice Gousset. All images courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim, shared with permission

“I see painting as a process, the finished work merely resembling the initial sketch and ideas stretching over multiple canvases. I like my figures to influence each other in some form of dialogue,” says Peter Uka.

Based in Cologne, Uka grew up in Nigeria in the late 70s and early 80s, a time of bell bottoms, A-line dresses, platform shoes, and bright, bold prints and colors. This now-retro style emerges regularly in the artist’s portraits, as he conjures scenes of his childhood. “It is always a personal experience of some kind that I am referencing, even if I merge it with elements from my imagination or add references. To me, it’s rather a feeling of familiarity and nostalgia that I am looking for than an exact depiction of the events or people,” he adds.

Working in oil on large, nearly life-sized canvases, Uka paints primarily from memory, an approach that seamlessly blends fact and fiction. He creates multiple pieces simultaneously and constructs a sort of community scaffolding onto which he can place stories and recollections. Although some subjects depict people like his mother, aunts, and siblings, others are amalgamations of several individuals. All exude a distinctive presence. “When painting a figure I am interested in framing their essence, and the relation I have to my subjects, from meaningful memories I share with them to conversations we had that impacted me in some way,” he says.

Uka’s recent solo show Triumph of Being at Mariane Ibrahim in Paris focused on grief and loss, a theme that emerges prominently in “Yesterday.” Recreating a banal scene from his childhood home, the portrait imagines the artist’s late sister, who frequently was scolded for adjusting the television dials as a child, doing the same as an adult, the screen showing color bars. Like many of Uka’s works, the painting collapses past and present and coalesces into a vibrant tapestry of memory and imagination.

Find more from the artist on Instagram.


a woman wearing a white shirt and floral skirt sits in a chair holding a bouquet of flowers

“Peace Invocation” (2023). Photo by Fabrice Gousset

a woman sits on a brown chair in a small room with a bed to her left and a table with two teacups behind her

“Marsha” (2021)

a painting of two men sitting on the beach in front of a straw structure

“Beach Life” (2021)

a man in yellow pants and a green plaid shirt rests on a metal bar with three stacked suitcases in the foreground

“The Traveler” (2022)

a woman in a floral dress adjusts the tv and looks at the viewer

“Yesterday” (2023). Photo Vincent Cheìron

a young man in a blue blazer and red pants stands between a spindly tree and looks over his shoulder

“Blue Jacket” (2021)

a man in a white shirt and jeans stands in front of a concrete barrier with plants behind him

“Tall Long John” (2021)

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