Twenty-one foremost Nigerian visual artists recently exhibited at Alexis Galleries, Lagos, in what is titled Bloom 2, Edozie Udeze takes a look at these artists and their works and the messages they convey.
The group of 21 Nigerian artists simply classified as the masters are exhibiting at the Alexis Galleries, Victoria Island, Lagos. The idea of bloom came up last year, when the artists had their first outing at the same venue. Bloom sets in place what has been seen as one of the best collection of group exhibition where these classical artists have been able to converge as one. Bloom will run till December 6, during which it is expected that these art pieces coming from all genres of the visual would have been able to touch hearts, mend souls and assuage some art lovers.
The works are deep excursions into time, into space, rummaging profoundly into the foyers of socio- political, economic and other political, economic and other sensitive issues that now bedevil a society at the cross-roads of economic downturn. You can describe the works as the collection of nature’s beauty and splendour. Indeed the artworks thoroughly interpret, explore and present themes, and concepts relating to living unbounded lives. Like life itself, the works are simple, complex, but then capture in diverse forms styles shapes and sizes, those binding issues of materials that inform patterns and connections to serious visual narratives of the time.
The artists involved are Bruce Onobrakpeya, Bunmi Babatunde, Sam Ovraiti, Abiodun Olaku, Segun Aiyesan, Duke Asidere, Edosa Ogiugo, Gerry Nnubia, Joe Essien, Ato Arinze, Gab Awusa. Others include Zinno Orara, Moses Unokwah, Alex Nwokolo, John Oyedemi, Joshua Nmesirionye, Sam Ebohon, Fidelis Odogwu, Diseye Tantua, Dominique Zinkpe and Reuben Ugbine. In all, each artist is meant to present not more than 3 works, works showing them as the real masters that they are: Most of these artists have been consistent for over 30 years, striding the art scene both at home and abroad. They have exhibited in most classical and renowned galleries in Europe, Asia, America and parts of Africa. In some of these museums and halls of fame their works adorn and are in total reckoning and beauty.
At the press briefing during the week some of the artists spoke on the exigencies of bloom and what it means to them. Ovraiti, a classical and renowned colourist, described the outing as a display of works that address current societal issues. “Yes, last year, I looked at the society basically. Now, my paintings indeed unmask the society. This year, I deliberately concentrated on some phenomenal lifestyles of the present society where most people always think that life is complex. No, life is not that complex if we look at it positively. I look at those simple but lovely issues of life that we usually overlook or take for granted.
Look at the sun as it rises in the morning and sets at night. See the total beauty of nature; of animals and birds that obey nature and add values to human existence. All these are done in simple styles this time around to help us see the simple nature of life and why we should see life as being less complicated”, Ovraiti decided. He came with 2 works titled Come September and Female figure. Come September symbolizes a time to travel while the Female figure espouses the epitome of womanhood; beauty, love and care. Nwokolo noted that bloom 2 is a continuation of what was started last year, but in a way to totally prosper the good and rich works of the artists. “It is my pleasure to still be a part of the show this time around.
One of my works is titled Canopy, a symbol of a tree in my community in Delta State. The tree is tied to the ancestral history of my town and it was a rallying point for the people for years. I therefore have a series titled Ubulu tree. The Ubulu is the symbolic name of this tree that bound our people together. The second one is Colony, a symbol of cattle. It is a painting that was developed from civilization. In a way it goes to show that the type of menace being orchestrated by herdsmen these days.
Then the last is Masquerade” Nwokolo explained. Essien basically tied his works to socio-political issues of the time. He looked at Nigeria and its myriad of worries and decided to paint them to show the depth of the issues worrying the people. “Yes, this time around my works zero deeper into political and social problems in our clime. Indeed, some of the works conform with the concept of prostitution which is also receiving attention at this exhibition. Many of our young girls are involved in the trade all over the world. And some of my works take a cursory look at the issue, as disturbing as it is today”, Essien, also a painter stated.
“One of the works titled Silenced showed how irrelevant we look and appear before our leaders”, Essien said with a frown on his face. “To our leaders we as the led do not count in the scheme of things. Our existence do not matter to them. This is why most people flee abroad. Sometimes they do it out of ignorance, not knowing that life over there can be terrible and hellish. This is why our girls fall into the wrong hands, exposing themselves to undue hardship and so on.
“Why do parents sell their daughters to human traffickers?”, Essien quipped. “Often the parents of these girls talk their daughters into going abroad to face these hazards and life of idiocy. In some parts of Nigeria, it has become a norm to go abroad to do prostitution. Is it good? he asked with a quivering voice. “How many houses have you built with your prostitution money? has become a slogan now. Some of the girls are either sponsored or forced under oath of allegiance to a shrine or cult to embark on this journey of no return”, the artist bemoaned with the depth of pain showing all over him. “So, my works depict these horrendous scenes, all tied to the ugly political and social issues of our time”. People travel out of Nigeria because there is plenty of poverty here and because leaders have not made it better for anybody. Then I have a series on this titled truth.
In the series, I portray what I see, I paint to ensure my own voice is heard. It is indeed my own contribution to make the society a better place for us all”. Awusa, in his own statement said, “this is a continuation of my works on the beauty of women. Women add plenty of beauty to life, to our existence generally. Here at the moment, I have 3 works. One is titled disguised beauty, on the issue of womanhood. It shows how complex some women can be and what that means to the society. Some of the works show that prostitution is no longer limited to the depraved or deprived. Some career women deliberately go into high class prostitution in places like Dubai to make bigger bucks. So as of now, it is not only a profession for the local and rural women.
Now disguised beauty showed that some women bleach their colours to look like Oyibo. Why do some African women wear Brazilian hairs, Indian hairs, Mexican hairs?. What are those colours of different types they put on their hair? Do they portray true African womanhood? Awusa, also a colourist asked. “Our women borrow a lot and this has to stop. Art is meant to portray all these anomalies in our society”, he stated in a gloomy face.
Nnubia, came with works thoroughly embedded on man and his everyday struggles to be successful. One is titled “Go getter”, a symbol of a resilient person, eager to succeed in life. “Most times my works come out on collage, with each pattern eager to probe man’s ability to be a success. The second work is titled “Abundance”, also on the issue of the quest to be a man. Basically this showed forest of abundance. However as they blossom and glitter to the delight of man, it showed the never-ending striving of man on earth. And artists put up brilliant works to encourage the society to continue to prosper”.
Olaku came with just one work, a series on the Spirit of enterprise (Lagos). As usual, Olaku who goes for landscapes most times, this time around uses cityscape to dissect Lagos streets, markets and life at night. The illumination is deep; it is profound, it showed a mega city in the throes of good, bad, ugly and all. He said, “it is oil on paper painting. It is the city of Lagos in a nutshell. It is a place where restlessness reigns supreme, where people hardly go to sleep.
So, the cityscape talks of market scenes. It is a scope that also transcends the city. You can see light at night, night market and people do not seem to go home to rest or sleep”. Part of the proceeds from the exhibition would go to an NGO called Saint Bakhita, those responsible for resettling and retraining of returnee prostitutes from different parts of the world. According to Mrs. Patty Chidiac – Mastrogiannis of Alexis this money will help to find work for them to do. The exhibition is supported by Pepsi, Tiger, Indomie, Mika no, Delta Airline, Cool World, UPS, Cobra net, Coo FM, Wazobia FM/TV, Art Cafe and The Home stores Limited.
(Culled from The Nation Newspaper)