Even with his recent viral success, Nashid Chroma’s artistic journey has involved trial and error, including a foray into EDM and electronic music production as a teen.
“Throughout my entire life I’ve just been chasing after music, trying so hard, and never really making anything out of it,” Chroma said.
These days, the 28-year-old artist’s work is on display at the Broken Cage Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in the city on Richmond Street.
Chroma’s love of music is evident in the pieces: the Toronto-based artist specializes in colourful, eye-catching portraits of iconic musicians and other pop culture figures, including Billie Eilish and Michael Jackson.
While experimenting with music, Chroma was also developing his visual art style, but he had not yet found a world where the two skills could merge.
“The two never really crossed paths until I did my 2020 daily painting challenge.” Chroma said.
After creating a piece in a painting challenge, Chroma’s work went viral online, with his painting of R&B Toronto artist, The Weeknd, gaining special attention. It was on display in TTC bus shelters across the city.
Although it is now a staple for his work, Chroma did not originally cover the faces of the people in his paintings. His earlier prints received pushback from record labels, prompting him to remove his work for sale on Etsy.
“My hand was forced in a way, because music labels started requesting to have my artwork taken down from Etsy,” Chroma said.
After this, Chroma developed his unique use of flowers to cover the faces of his subjects.
Chroma works hard on each of his pieces, spending hours researching and creating compositions for the final painting. During this creation process, Chroma always challenges himself to outdo his last piece.
“Every time I produce a piece now, I always have the intention to make it better than the last,” Chroma said.
Even with his success, Chroma did not expect to pursue art as a career path when he was younger.
“I had no idea that this would be my career path, or that this was even a career path that I could take.” Chroma said.
After spending time in school studying architecture, he eventually decided to take the leap to pursue his art career full-time.
Chroma feels that his success has come from his level of consistency, and taking advantage of the opportunities that have come his way.
“If you do anything consistently, opportunities will show themselves to you,” Chroma said.
Eric McKinnon, the Broken Cage Gallery’s founder, noticed the positive reception that gallery attendees had to Chroma’s work.
“Everyone who comes in loves Nashid’s work. It’s very interesting to see which piece resonates with visitors,” McKinnon said.
The gallery features the work of many new and experienced artists, and McKinnon is hoping to create a unique space for modern art fans to enjoy.
The gallery opened in the fall/winter season of 2019, a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic began. This unprecedented situation made the promotion of the gallery more challenging for McKinnon.
“Despite opening the doors for only a few months before the first pandemic lockdown, and then repeatedly closing our doors again, we have survived due to our hard work.” McKinnon said.
McKinnon also hosts comedy nights at the gallery, blending the worlds of comedy and visual art with these events.
“The goal was to create a new type of gallery, an artistic environment to promote all forms of art,” McKinnon said.
Various artists have displayed their artwork at the Broken Cage Gallery, both locally based and international. McKinnon thanks the world of social media for giving him the platform to reach out to the artists that have been featured in the gallery and help it gain attention.
McKinnon hopes the gallery can be a unique and enjoyable experience for its visitors and inspire a fresh outlook on the art-gallery experience.
“Art should be an enjoyable experience with no pressure, it should inspire and be an investment one can feel excited about,” McKinnon said.