Sunday, 4 December 2016

Across Borders Of Beyond Functions

I Love Syria by Ceramist, Ato Arinze

By Tajudeen Sowole
Functionality of applied art or design, most often, blurs the conceptual and aesthetics contents. For a Lagos-based ceramist, Ato Arinze and his Cameroonian counterpart, Djakou K. Nathalie, the perception or reality that has been moulded around appropriation of ceramic art must be put in proper perspective.
Jointly, the two artists found a common space in Beyond Functions, an exhibition, which just held at Moorehouse, Ikoyi, Lagos. Each artist took different thematic approach: Arinze stuck to pottery, stylised to create diverse imageries while Nathalie expressed her thoughts in mostly domestic dish forms and few figures.

 Nathalie weaves her Nigerian experience into most of her themes, particularly when she has to share the experience of gun violence witnessed in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Such works include, Chaos and quite a number of Untitled pieces, which also capture states of political and economic instability around the world. For example, Chaos, a dish form, but patterned in many pieces, glued together, explains the fear in which the artist's host community of Nigeria’s volatile Niger Delta constantly lives with.

 However, the aesthetics contents of most of her work are so loud that the inspiration behind the creation - negatives such as gun violence - is blurred. Among such works that stress the artist's creative ebullience within design contents are: Erosion, Labyrinth, Ecosystem, Twins and Anxious.

 When she came to PH from Yaounde to create works for the exhibition, whatever theme she had in mind changed. "Seeing the violence and living in fear in Port Harcourt, I changed the theme that I wanted to create," Nathalie tells her guest during a visit to the exhibition.

  Her co-exhibitor and host, Arinze is one of Nigeria's most consistent ceramists whose art practice, in general, often gives space to activism. Arinze, for example, with a group known as Art Zero, has been in the fore of alternative or additional perspective to art appreciation outside Nigeria's hub of Lagos and Victoria Islands. 

Also quite a lot if his themes question social, political regimentation.

 For Beyond Functions, the artist questions perception, noting that there is more to ceramics and pottery than functionality. Again, the relativity and sometimes complexity of shaping how people behave towards ceramic is perhaps as slippery as a glazed surface of sculptures across genre. Vases, for example, that have motives and patterns pretend to be non-functional. But in reality, "you can't prevent people from using such ceramic work for functional purpose," Arinze argues.

 Remember the tragic Syrian family washed away on Greece waters trying an escape to safety? Yes, the drowned boy - from the tragic journey - found on the beach gets a tribute in one of Arinze's body of work for Beyond Functions. Using the treading words 'I Love Syria,' for the title of a pottery piece, Arinze places the lifeless body of a boy, delicately on top of the pottery piece. Interestingly, there is a swap here: turned upside down, the bottom serves as top, also suggesting peak of hill or globe. Similarly another pottery turned upside down Immigrants, captures the artist's thought on the rising refugee crisis from the Syrian civil war.

 In clear sculptural forms, Arinze shows the dynamics of his skill with series Tree of Life and Two Trees, in sureal-like depictions of human figures and plants.  
Erosion (41cm/27cm, 2016) by 
Djakou K. Nathalie
Excerpts from the  artists' bio. Arinze: 'With over 20 years of studio practice as a Ceramics Sculptor, his love for the clay medium and his perfection in handling the material has endured him in the minds of Art Patrons. He has organised and facilitated many Seminars and workshops on Creativity, Art business, Pottery and Sculpture. 

  Nathalie: In 2014 Nathalie featured in the television show "CAREERS" channel 2 with members of her association. In 2015, she co-executed Mosaics for the renovation of the Central Post Office of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. she participated in several group exhibitions and created several ceramic work for banks, schools, companies and privates customers. Many videos films were produced on her works, including that of the Swiss TSR, TV5 Afrique and several publications in newspapers and magazines.

How 'New cubism' of Onwuka Exhaled In Exodus

By Tajudeen Sowole
Shrinking resources, generated from economic survival, and leading to displacement of people as key factors confronting policy makers across the world, stray into the palette of Nyemike Onwuka. With what appears like the artist’s new period in geometric art, the central theme about migration gets louder in his combined oeuvre and new techniques.
From Blurred Fantasie Series
Simply titled Exodus, Onwuka's body of work, which just showed at Signature Beyond Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos hovers over two vulnerable victims of economic and political migrations: women and children. Interestingly, the artist's Exodus is not just an extension of documented facts, from which reference could tap, but also include his "personal experience" and encounter with some victims outside Nigeria.

 From a distinct signature of scratched canvas that creates aging perception, Onwuka, in Exodus, adds his new style, a checkered-like patterns described by the exhibition's curator, Burns Effiom, as "new cubism." And why not? Contemporaneity is expanding the art space across genres such that one cant really question a coinage such as "new cubism" a term in Onwuka's art vocabulary, derived from the early 20th century art movement linked to Pablo Picasso and Georges Brasque.
 As complex as that coinage is, the paintings involved such as Hidden Brands series Kept Within, Light At The Exit, Unbroken, and Blurred fantasies assert the artist's depth of lines and blending such with fragility of multi colour application to retain solid image that boosts the portraiture themes in generating an embossed effect. More emphatic is the optical effect generated, particularly in Blurred Fantasies.

 As regards the theme, Onwuka discloses his experience of how "young women are forced into sex slavery abroad," even in the so-called advanced democracy of western countries. The survival of the 21st century, he laments, makes "women and children most vulnerable.

 With a fresh found love in 'new cubism', it appears like the artist is gradually resting the scratched and decaying canvas technique, isn't it? "I am not done yet with it," Onwuka clarifies. Yes, so it seems; paintings from the technique still dominate the exhibition. "As art has no boundaries, so is my technique and style," Onwuka assures.
 The more one tries to create ventilation for Onwuka's new cubism voc to escape through contemporary space, the further a conviction of complexity becomes salient. But the curator of Exodus, Effiom defends the artist's concept of 'new cubism':"Onwuka is bridging the gap and bringing the contemporary into the Avant garde."
A curatorial note from Effioms explains further: "The artist favours fragmentations and geometrical forms. He has reduced his presentation to cubes and geometrical forms thus heightening his discourse. Because colours have forms and sub-forms this swirling energy is even juxtaposed with his more popular oeuvres.
 "His visual language is embedded with sympathy and empathy that inspires construction of communities through humanity using painting and installation. Human personality as subject.
He delivers a powerful message while looking for solutions and creating solutions as if in agreement that in every challenge so lies the seeds of solution.

 "Tangible and intangible symbols fused together manifests in objects; colours; ideas that bellows his narrative further for a critical mass that he so desires to access the hope he intends for his subjects in Exodus.

  "The use of installation can be of any kind. But the concern here is visual art. In this fold Simon Wilson and Jessica lack defined: Installation as the term used to describe mixed media construction or assemblage usually designed for a specific place and for a temporary period of time."

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Confronting State Of The Nation With Who Will Blink First?

By Taajudeen Sowole
Capturing a state of the nation's battle for survival, art, in its full strength was deplored in Lagos, with photography/film, poetry, performance, installation and mixed media painting. The space: a distinct art exhibition part of Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF 2016), held at Freedom Park, Lagos Island energises creative expression as relevant voice in nationhood narrative.
Nkechi Nwosu-­Igbo's I Will Huff and Puff and Blow Your House, installation view. Sticks, ropes plastic cups, nails, mats, papers. 2016

 For the artists involved in the exhibition titled Who Will Blink First? - curated by Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo -  it's a familiar space. Photographer, Aderemi Adegbite;  activist-performer, Jelili Atiku; installation artist, Nwosu-Igbo, painter, Bob-nosa Uwagboe and poet, Efe Paul Ajino whose works have been shown at the yearly space, severally, continue adding conceptual texture to the yearly event. Recall that at the last edition, the regular artists featured in the exhibition titled They Have Asked Us To Smile

 The 2016 exhibition, presented by Mild Red Studios, articulates The Terror of Knowledge, a central theme of LABAF 2016.
 The theme of the exhibition suggests a combative gathering perhaps similar to common outrage, which frustrated Nigerian youths always released via social media. No, Who Will Blink First?, is a deviation that provides platform for Nigerians to apply education and knowledge as weapon in combating economic challenge such as recession.

 From photographs of his foreign tours titled Summer Trips series, Adegbite shares how knowledge, in the context of the exhibition's theme relates to his European travelogue. Some of the works include rail lines in Europe shot from aerial view, couple in the wood and quite some postal stamps of iconic names of western descents as well as a book cover. 

  Adegbite explains that the Summer Trips series reflect movement "around within spaces with similar history to mine."
  From a 2014 project, which Atiku titled, Lord Lugard Sings Blah Blah Green Sheep (Maanifesito I) performed at Ejigbo, a Lagos suburb, the artist drags onto the LABAF 2016 exhibition space, a recent controversial demolition of Nigeria's national monument. The edifice, known as Ilojo Bar, Tiubu Square, Lagos State, was said to have been built over 150 years ago, but went into rubbles under the bulldozers of an anonymous private developer. Adapted for the LABAF space, Atiku's Hunhun-un-un (Maanifesito V series, he says, "question our sense of reasoning in sustaining collective histories and memories." 

  President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government must have aligned itself with the thoughts of painter, Uwagboe, if the news report few days ago, about stripping people of small arms is anything to hold on to. Uwagboe's body of work shown at the exhibition stresses the need to check proliferation of small and large arms, if peace must reign and generate good economic environment.

 Some of the works include The Herdsmen and The Gun..... acrylic on textured canvas...24 x 30; The Elite and His Gun Man (acrylic on canvas... 24 x 30 2016); and The Unregister Gun (acrylic on canvas 24 x 30 2016.)

  From his three works titled I Go In Search Of Sorrow, Dream Seeker and Leaving Azino shares the value of words in narrating relationship. His spoken-words reads: 'I go in Search of Sorrow Something dark I can swallow
A rain of tears to beat my garment, heavy, arching my shoulders
I pine for the grip of melancholia
To grab me by the mind and squeeze..."
Jelili Atiku's Kill Not This Country (Maanifesito II), Catholic Mission Street/ Hospital Road / Broad Street, Lagos Island, Saturday November 31, 2015. Photo by Emmanuel Sanni

 In a state of recession, carrying emotional baggage of hate and intolerance would be mentally horrendous, so suggest Nwosu-Igbo's installation. Mounted in broken bars that form contents for the construction, the red painted work depicts the complexity of intolerance. The installation, I Will Huff and Puff And Bllow Your House Down probes the Nigerian mentality of intolerance. "We have built this shaky establishment for the us vs. them mind-set..."

 Again, the LABAF art exhibition provides a space for visual engagement on issues, filling the vacuum left by commercial-dominate Lagos art scene.

 In her curatorial notes, Nwosu-Igbo writes: "There is a crucial need to create and improve new radical and well-founded tactics of fighting, surviving, and collective action to be able to exist in Nigeria of today," Nwosu-Igbo explains in her curatorial statement. "Who Will Blink First? suggests an arranged, time-based, three-dimensional village meeting where the exhibition hall will serve as a site for exchange of survival ideas."

Standing Before Kings In A Debutant's Pastel

By Tajudeen Sowole
In a Lagos art space, where the stake is increasingly high, self-taught artist, Tayo Ayelowo debuts with portraiture, a sub-genre that is easily vulnerable to critique. Currently, and for the next one week, Ayelowo's pastel pieces of Nigerian monarchs are showing as Standing For Kings at Mercedes Benz Centre, Lekki, Lagos. Ayelowo, a lawyer by formal training, has, over the years done portraiture of monarchs that she says are inspired by diversity and richness of kingly regalia.
Tayo Ayelowo’s pastel capture of Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi

An exhibition of portraits from Nigeria's royal settings, either in photography or paintings is not new on Nigerian art landscape. Child music star of the 1980s, now an artist, Tosin Jegede and photographer, George Osodi had, each, shown portraits of select traditional leaders. With Ayelowo, it would be of interest to know her experience having the much-revered custodian of tradition and cultures sat for portraiture. But much of the portraits, she discloses, were done using photographs. In addition to using photographic reference of the monarchs, direct interaction with two or three royal family, she adds, has been of tremendous help in getting to know her subjects as well as sharing a feel of the heritage spaces.
Still on what comes naturally, applying finger tips and thumps in aiding the pastel on papers, are extensions of what she considers a vital part of her life, generally. For example, she prefers eating African foods "with my fingers instead of cutlery."   
As a debut solo effort, and coming from a self - taught artist, Standing Before Kings reveals an artist with strong touch of pastel, despite widely using darkened background that sometimes swallow the portraits. But most times, the white garments of the subjects provide the balance, diffusing the flatness. 
Quite interesting, the white also plays spirituality part in Ayelowo's paintings, being loud in what seems common among some of the monarchs' choice of clothing.. From the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, in a woven wig-like white crown, and adorned with equally white regalia: to Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nneemeka's simplified white top with red beads and cap; as well as Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Aremu Akiolu-1, there is something about the traditional rulers’ choice and purity.
Among other monarchs on Ayelowo's list of 26 pastel paintings are Aalafin Of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona; Gbong-Gwon of Jos, Jacob Gyang; Obong of Calabar, Bassey Ekpo Bassey; Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Arenu, Gbadebo III; Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; and Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli.
Perhaps Ayelowo is not just another self-taught artist that is gatecrashing into the creative terrain. She has an Artist Statement to explain her passion: "Capturing a person’s facial expression has been my obsession.
My work explores the relationship between visual arts and on how it stimulates the senses. My paintings are as a result of passion of pictorial gravity and accumulated expression of inspirations. Each and every piece of my paintings is laced with undercurrents of emotion, change and movements. Therefore, most of my work may conform to “reality.

  “I worked hard to paint the Traditional Rulers such that it should communicate both to me and to others about the splendor buried deep in tradition and culture. I want to communicate fluently the language of humanity and share my work with the world. Do enjoy the view. Thank you."

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Lagos stopover for Shonibare’s 'Wind Sculpture VI'

Few days ago, the touring Wind Sculpture series by Nigerian-British artist, Yinka Shonibare was on display at Ndubuisi Kanu Park, Alausa, Ikeja. 
Yinka Shonibare's Wind Sculpture VI, (in the background), opened at Ndubusi Kanu Park, Lagos, few days ago.

During the Talk session of the opening, the artist told guests that the Sculpture VI is about taking art to the public space.

 Inspired by the sailing of ships, the sculptures also adapted African patterns made from Dutch wax fabrics, an identity in Shonibare’s works.
  The sculpture is on display until 31 January 2017.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Escaping To 'Freedom' Of New Offo Period

By Tajudeen Sowole
Five years of art, complementing a hospitality space, in Nigerias business travel industry exhales visually through artist, Gbenga Offo's new period. The artist"s sculpture, described as never-seen in public adds fresh breath to his cubism painting identity.
Hope II Bronze 3fts 2016 by Gbenga Offo
The hospitality space, The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos, which opened for business in 2011, has, consistently, been hosting art exhibitions as a “luxury boutique hotel,”  The art space, which is curated by Sandra Obiago Mbanefo engages visitors to the hotel in visual dalogue as each exhibition - across generations of Nigerian artists - is not detached from constant views of traffic flow.

 More interesting, Offo, an artist known for his cubism style painting is also showing, for the first time, sculptures made in bronze and wrought iron/stainless for the hotel’s fifth anniversary. Offo is brings a body of work he titles Freedom, which is showing for over three months, ending January 15, 2017.

 After a long period of his career that has projected him with a clear identity in cubism, Offo appears to be using Freedom to step into a new era. "I don't want to be labeled a cubist," he tells a select preview guests. And now, a reluctant cubist, Offo escapes into Freedom of sculptures, but still retains his signature as an artist with bold features in figure rendition. In the exhibition are also, a set of abstract pieces and forms generated through flow of colours, which he groups as Splash. And under Sketches are portraits done with conte on paper, burdened in painterly shades of drawing strokes. 

 From Flip, an expression of self-esteem; to Hope I, Hope II, expectancy in elongated busts series; and minimalism impressions Mutual Respect, Offo steps into a bronze sculpture period of his career. And adding to this new period are, among others, a trace of his cubist identity, in Sweet Conversation; and simplified figural of joyous mood, Happy People, all expressed in wrought iron and stainless steel.

 Though showing his sculpture work in public for the first time, the artist discloses that sculpturing has always been part oi his studio work. "It's not as if I never did sculpture, but I just didn't show them." As his cubism period was inspired by the 20th century master of the movement, Pablo Picasso, so the attempt at sculpture. "The day I knew Picasso did quite a lot of sculpture, it was like a freedom day for me," Offo recalls.

 However, the air of Freedom at Wheatbaker, to a large extent is still populated with the artist's cubist identity. His bold features-style of cubism continues with paintings such as Woman with Scarf, Once Upon A Time, Reclining Woman with Newspaper and Story Teller, among others that stress the essence of colour on Lagos art landscape.  

 Sponsored by Veuve Clicquot and the Wheatbaker, the exhibition represents the mood of the Nigerian people. "The theme of the exhibition reflects the challenges we go through as a people," Obiago states. She notes "Freedom is a special exhibition" that is important in marking the fifth anniversary of "Wheatbaker as art destination hotel in Nigeria."
A wrought iron and stainless steel sculpture titled Happy People by Gbenga Offo
 In a pres statement, the hotel takes pride in being a space for creative expression. We are proud to have created a dynamic platform for international and local artists to experiment and present new creative expressions, commented Mosun Ogunbanjo,  a Director of the luxury hotel.  We will continue to ensure that despite Nigerias current economic recession, the Wheatbaker provides quality services and strengthens creativity and innovation.

  Offo, b. 1957, graduated as best Art and Graphic Student from the  Yaba College of Technology in Lagos in 1984. He worked for a decade as an illustrator for leading advertising agencies Lintas and Insight Communications, before becoming a full time studio artist in 1996. Offo has taken part in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United Kingdom and Nigeria, and his works are in many leading corporate and public collections.

Timeless... Akpokona's steps towards mastery of lighting

By Tajudeen Sowole
A first solo art exhibition for Tega Akpokona comes with bold, though shadow of some of his mentors. But an artist who has a determination to step beyond the initial unavoidable influence of his masters is also loud in the brushings of Akpokona.
Give Us This Day
Oil On Canvas / 44 X 40 Inches / 2016
An artist with faint texture of impressionism, Akpokona whose solo, Timeless opened yesterday at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, is denouncing isms of any kind for broader freedom of expression. Art, he argues, should not be confined to movements or any group ideology. That’s quite a familiar argument common among most artists of contemporary age. 

However, Akpokona appears to be working his talk as seen in some of the works during a preview of the exhibition. Despite a toning style that leans towards European renaissance classic period, the young artist's application of light, particularly in softening and highlighting imagery could just be his strong asset in the brushing and paletting business.

Thematically, Akpokona brings onto canvas issues that set people thinking beyond narrow partisan of politics and ethnic bigotry. Also, his love for artisans and cottage industry is of interest.
  One of his works titled Give Us This Day, rendition of a queue of IDPs lining up to collect food should make sympathisers of those who benefits from Dasuki-gate do a self-assesement of their moral values. "It is my visual way of expressing concerns that we have refugees in our country," Akpokona tells his guests ahead of the exhibition. 

 And just in case the sympathizers of Dasuki-gate and their beneficiaries still do not understand the catastrophe caused by diversion of fund meant for Nigerian army's fight against Boko Haram terrorists, Akpokona adds: "farmers who should be producing foods have been displaced, and are now begging for foods." Lit in the artist's technique of highlighting, which creates both silhouetted and illuminated images from the figures, Give Us This Day captures tragedy of a whole region in northeast Nigeria that was prevented from three seasons of farming as a result of Boko Haram insurgency. 

 As much as Akpokona's works are heavily laced with thought provoking themes, the essence of art as an embodiment of conversation and aesthetic values are not missing. This much exists in works such as Allegory of the Receiving Ends, Refulgence and Sanguine Whispers, among others.

 Basically, the artist's palette has a loud colour for the cottage and non-formal sector of Nigerian work force. "Industrious and artisan people inspire my work," he says.

 Akpokona's bio: he is an outstanding and talented young Nigerian emerging artist. He lives and works in Lagos. He graduated with a Bachelor in Art Degree, from the University of Benin, Nigeria, in 2011. Subsequently, He became a protégé under the mentorship of master Nigerian artist Abiodun Olaku at the Universal Studios of Art. Viewing His paintings, the viewer is allured by the creative use of light interplayed with rich subtle, colours, capturing the depth of human emotions. His works can be found in prestigious private collections Nigeria, in the UK and in the US.
Tega Akpokona
 Selected Exhibitions and Awards - Empower 54 African Art Charity Gala', Atlanta GA, USA, 2016 -Affordable Art Auction' Arthouse Contemporary, February 2016 -"EMERGINGARTISTAWARD", SocietyofNigeriaArtists2015 - Society of Nigerian artist "October rain" art exhibition, Lagos, 2014 -"Home coming", a salon by contemporary Nigerian artists, Abuja, 2014 -ArtintheHouse,Abuja,2013 -"Unforgettable Treasures" miniature artfair, Lagos, 2009.