Sunday, 26 October 2014

Olawunmi Banjo opens Mind Revolution at Nike Art Centre

Hidden Potentials
(Oil on Canvas, 2014)

“We are more than a consuming continent, particularly when we stop focusing mainly on natural resources and channel our mental productivity towards creative ideas and innovations that are globally relevant—which is very possible to achieve.”

From November 1 2014, a solo art exhibition of Olawunmi Banjo titled Mind Revolution opens to the public at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos showing for one week.

With Power and Powers, James-Iroha’s lens focuses on elusive electricity in Nigeria

By Tajudeen Sowole
LOOKING at electric power challenge in Nigeria, Uche James-Iroha uses his photography to highlight how despite past and present government’s efforts to correct the problem, the issue appears unsolvable.

In black and white prints on canvas, the works, which goes into a solo art show titled Power and Powers, opens on November 8 at Omenka Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Krazy Bill Klan (KBK) a photography work by Uche James-Iroha
Aside from its aesthetics, the works add voices to the perception that electric power challenge in the country is as a result of conspiracy. The conspiracy theory, according James-Iroha's Power and Powers are in two folds: political and the distribution of electricity.

Largely conceptualised and dramatised, the works could pass for a film director's storyboard as models' portrayal of the issues help in driving home the message. While colour strengthens populism of photography in contemporary terms, James-Iroha has an opposite view for his work. For Power and Powers, the concept takes priority. The works, in black and white, indeed, subdue the tungsten-lit atmosphere of the gallery. “These are images that explore the dark and unprogressive romance between political power and electrical power distribution in Nigeria," James-Iroha told select guests during the preview.

The project itself has a story of despair behind its inspiration. Iroha recalled that five years ago, when he started compiling the works, someone alerted him that if the project was not ready as soon as possible, the concept might be irrelevant because Nigeria will soon overcome her power challenge in about a year. Nevertheless, the optimism, James-Iroha explained, urged him further into the body of work, hoping that electric power will be stable, and the concept will take another form. But power remained elusive as he presented the works for preview.

The complexity of the power sector has attracted quite a volume of commentaries and individual-based pieces of works within the visual arts environment. However, James-Iroha’s Power and Powers is among a few of such that have works dedicated to the issue.

He argued: “Nigeria is by far the most populous nation in the continent with vast human and material resources and enormous potential, but electricity is still a big issue.” He aligned with the popular argument that the country’s age long erratic power supply has the reality of deceit, where political office seekers clearly use the promise of electricity as bait to get elective offices.

James-Iroha pointed out how the power challenge has hindered laudable projects: “It is interesting to know that tons of white elephant projects, which include a cashless economic system and automated rail transport are some of the works gulping huge budgets and will all depend on an efficient electric supply to run.”

While the political forces have been having a field day conspiring with the diesel and electricity generating set merchants to rape the nation, the battle for survival, according to one of the works always shift to the streets between the poor masses and the power workers.

A street capture titled After The Raid explains this much. Not exactly a fisticuffs on the street, but the aura of disconnected cables and the ugly sight it adds to skyline speaks so much about the bitterness among the state of confusion in a land of plenty.
But sometimes the consumers of ‘no light’ situation often sympathise with the electricity workers. James-Iroha shared an experience. He had gone to pay his bill, but found out that even the PHCN office there was no light; the office was running on generating set.” 

With increasing hope, James-Iroha’s Power and Powers concludes that Nigerians are under the terror that could be likened to what the African-Americans in the U.S. went through during the reign of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the 1920s and 60s. For the photography show, the work that replicates and adapts the dark period is tiled Krazy Bill Klan (KBK). Just as the KKK, the three masked figures are in the white.

In Nigeria, estimated bills otherwise known as ‘Crazy bill”, which usually shoots up charges by as much as 1000 per cent is common.  

Shot with Nikkon camera, a brand that supports the show, the works, according to Omenka Gallery goes beyond the satire of the power situation in Nigeria.  “The works are largely a critique of a corrupt leadership that proffers cosmetic solutions to the persistent issue of electric power supply and serve as a springboard for confronting issues that continue to face Nigerians today. Perhaps, no singular contemporary Nigerian artist has created a singular body of work that mounts a sustained challenge on such an important issue, “said Oliver Enwonwu, curator of the exhibition and Director at Omenka.
Nikkon is the market leader in camera and imaging technologies. Nikon cameras, Nikkor, its brand of lenses and speed lights are available and fully distributed in Nigeria with one-year warranty by New Creation International Worldwide Link Nigeria Limited.
  Omenka said: “We represents a fine selection of established and emerging contemporary African and international artists working in diverse media. Omenka stimulates critical discourse on African art through solo, group and large themed shows accompanied by informed, scholarly catalogues.

“In ensuring sustainable presence for African art within a global context, Omenka participates in major events like Art Dubai, Joburg Art Fair, Cape Town Art Fair, Cologne Paper Art, Docks Art Fair, Lyon, LOOP, Barcelona, Art14, and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

Additionally, it encourages a cross fertilisation of ideas by collaborating with leading galleries across the world to bring the works of many international artists to Nigeria, often for the first time. Omenka Gallery also organises workshops and residencies to encourage curatorial and professional artistic development.

James-Iroha was born in 1972. He studied sculpture at the University of Port Harcourt, graduating in 1995. A year later, he became interested in photography and has since exhibited extensively in Nigeria and around the world. The Prince Claus Fund, a Netherlands-based organisation that promotes inter-cultural exchange, has described him as the ‘leading light of a new generation of Nigerian photographers.”

In his diverse work, he fuses the creative language of imagery with the documentation of everyday reality while addressing wide-ranging issues from economic imperialism to the brutal relationships, which exist among races, social class and gender. He is also the director of Photo Garage, which offers an indigenous platform for domestic and global intellectual photography exchanges. He is also the director of Depth of Field (DoF), a photography collective based in Lagos.

James-Iroha has been honoured with the Elan Prize at the African Photography Encounters in Mali, 2005 for his work Fire, Flesh and Blood, as well as the Prince Claus Award, 2008 for his work in supporting young artists and promoting photography as an art in Nigeria.
(First published in The Guardian, Friday, October 24, 2014).

Amidst the Mire...Lessor shares art of resilience

By Tajudeen Sowole
 In spite of being mired in the increasing state of socio-economic decline, the Nigerian people’s resilience gets a boost in visual expression of artist, Jonathan Mavua Lessor

Lessor, a painter shares his experience in a solo art exhibition titled Amidst the Mire, which opens tomorrow and showing for one week at Alexis Galleries, Victoria Island, Lagos. With about 40 pieces of paintings, mixed media, Lessor opens the inner part of what he describes as the unfriendly circumstances that led to the making of the works.

Oil on Canvas painting Crown, by Jonathan Mavua Lessor.

Coming from the euphoria of a peacefully conducted general elections of 201, Nigerian electorates got the first gift of the democratic dividends in January 2012 - perhaps a reward for participatory democracy -  in fuel pump hike. From the fuel subsidy-scam protests till now, quite some revelations in monumental and unresolved mismanagement of resources by the federal government have led the people highly depressed without respite in sight. For Lessor, the last two to three years, ironically, have spurred him into strong creative realm. "From the fuel subsidy crisis of 2012, to Boko Haram, political issues, Ebola etc, so much depressions have been around us," the artist recalls. But not everyone has surrendered their survival to the flood of crisis rocking Nigeria. Lessor is one of such brave-hearts who would not bow to the whims and caprices of unprepared politicians who were unprepared for leadership.  "And in the midst of these we still have to work; I have been loking at the crisis rocking Nigeria from the positive attitude perspective, and learning that despite the problems we must move on."

One of the gains of not surrendering creativity to economic recession and poor leadership was the prospect in rediscovering and consolidating. Lessor, during the past three years has strengthened his mixed media technique. "In this show, I am focusing on new materials; using fabrics." The artist who has been a consistent impressionist in his over two decades studio career brings into Amidst the Mire works that may redefine his art in the future. Two of such works include Crown, a celebration of woman and the female hair as well as Cans of Life. The hair of a woman, which most African cultures regard as her "glory" comes into the capture of Lessor's palette as the artist's painting technique blurs the line between impressionism and mosaic. As much as the theme of Crown is African base, the rendition appears like a betrayal as Lessor's woman wears a loose and almost waistline length hair. Quite regal, from the profile angle view, but the African native hairstyle in her is conspicuously missing. Again, whatever the rendition misses in native contextualising of the theme, it gains in the elegance of feminine posture that radiates through the composite.

In the past five years or more, contemporary practice has been pushing Lagos art scene out of the conservative shell of the latter, slowly though. And as installation art, which thrives on the application of materials hardly finds its way beyond on-the-spot appreciation –still far away from collections - more artists have been filling that vacuum of contemporaneity by thickening the canvas beyond oil and acrylic. Specifically, painting on fabric has been gaining more ground among Nigerian artists who are, traditionally, glued to the canvas. Lessor belongs to the generation of Nigerian traditionalist painters. And having established his art as someone who loves the thickness of the canvas in impasto technique, he seems to have found an extension in fabric.  All of a sudden fabrics are winning the canvas, is Lessor falling into the trends?  "It's still mixed media, and I have been doing mixed media since eight years," he argued.

The co-curator and director at Alexis Galleries, Patty Chidiac noted that Lessor has the style, form and technique that fits into the contemporary time. And still maintaining a consistent partnership for the Alexis Galleries' sponsors, Chidiac listed the camaraderie: Leventis, Litho-Chrome The Homestores , Art CafĂ©, Veuve Clicquot, wazobia FM, Nigeria info and cool Fm,  Wazobia TV, Cool TV, The Avenue Suites, arra vineyards and ISN Internet Solutions Nigeria Limited.

Lessor’s bio reads: He had his first solo exhibition in Lagos - ’Consciousness of Form’. Well received, he was encouraged to return in 2001 with - ’Colour Amidst Squalour, an exhibition coordinated by Obias Odogwu. This too was a huge success. Since then, it has become a bi-annual affair to exhibit his works, as in 2005, 2006, 2008, he followed up with ‘Tones of Light’. ‘Art on the Rooftop’ and ‘The Stages of Time’ respectively.
(First published in The Guardian, Friday, October 24, 2014) 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

‘How to separate Latent Reality from illusion’

By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published in The Guardian, Friday, October 24, 2014)
From tree years of creating experimental works, Aladegbongbe Aderinsoye has shown that idea transit to productivity.

In his research, the artist, who also teaches Art at the Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos flaunts his academic prowess, blended with studio works to arrive at Latent Reality, a body of work that will be on show from October 25 to 31 at Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Beautiful Purple by yAladegbongbe Aderinsoye
During a preview, Aderinsoye explained how Latent Reality focuses on the supernatural. Thought or ideas, he argued are intangible until they are interpreted on a paper or canvas as drawing, painting and piece of sculpture.

Stressing his argument further, Aderinsoye dragged in spirituality, noting that even at the beginning, creation did not commence until the Creator was convinced that there will be light.  "No wonder, until God declared, Let there be light, light did not appear, so also is the power of the creative ability of man."

Last year, when Aderinsoye had a solo exhibition titled Visual Sensation in Phases-I and II at National Museum. Onikan, Lagos Island, and Yusuf Grillo Gallery, Yabatech, the themes were still much about experimentation as the canvas was dominated with figural and representational rendition. For Latent Reality, abstraction appears to have moved more steps on the ladder of concepts. In one of the works titled Fruitfulness, for example, the artist renders gourds in such a way that the images represent pregnancy.  "Just like any other stage of life, there is time for fruitfulness."

Aderinsoye, who is the HOD, Fine Art Department
Yabatech takes his thoughts deeper into the realm of academics. "Many scholars have said one thing or the other about the word, Art. Nevertheless.  One might, therefore, try to understand the nature of arts in its visual by first developing a clear definition of the term ‘Art.’ One could then turn to the question of how can visual art be distinguished from a non-visual art.  The visual arts, which I create would then refer to that class of arts as visual in required sense.

"The build of understanding and appreciation of visual image or form on a ground or flat surface has aesthetical advantage.
"In other word, it is generally said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.  Art or Art work is then what the viewer says it is.  The body of work on display this year is far apart from what was displayed in the last three years. The exhibition for last year for instance was experimental since creativity is not static, and change is the mother of invention, the artist is not exempted from creating new things and showcasing new ideas.

Last year was basically a research on wood, and also making statement with it, burnt and in its natural forms, introducing little or nothing as design, which made them appealing to viewers.
 “Then art is an awesome site of human creative engagement, which is a sleep on of the cultural entity interpreted in a visual form with musical instruments.  It serves as a record of history for feature generation.”

Richard Flanagan is the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize

Australian author, Richard Flanagan has won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Narrow Road in the Deep North published by Chatto & Windus.

The Tasmanian-born author is the third Australian to win the coveted prize which, for the first time in its 46-year history, is now expanded to include entries from writers of all nationalities, writing originally in English and published in the UK. He joins an impressive literary canon of former winners including fellow Australians Thomas Kenneally (Schindler’s Ark, 1982) and Peter Carey (Oscar & Lucinda, 1988 and The True History of the Kelly Gang, 2001).

The Narrow Road in the Deep North 
The Narrow Road to the Deep North is the sixth novel from Richard Flanagan, who is considered by many to be one of Australia’s finest novelists. It centres upon the experiences of surgeon Dorrigo Evans in a Japanese POW camp on the now infamous Thailand-Burma railway. The Financial Times calls it ‘elegantly wrought, measured and without an ounce of melodrama… nothing short of a masterpiece.’
Named after a famous Japanese book by the haiku poet Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is described by the 2014 judges as ‘a harrowing account of the cost of war to all who are caught up in it’. Questioning the meaning of heroism, the book explores what motivates acts of extreme cruelty and shows that perpetrators may be as much victims as those they abuse. Flanagan’s father, who died the day he finishedThe Narrow Road to the Deep North, was a survivor of the Burma Death Railway.

Richard Flanagan was announced as the 2014 winner by AC Grayling, Chair of judges, at an awards dinner at London’s Guildhall, which was broadcast live on the BBC News Channel. Flanagan was presented with a trophy from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and a £50,000 cheque from Emmanuel Roman, Chief Executive of Man Group. The investment management firm has sponsored the prize since 2002.
AC Grayling comments: ‘The two great themes from the origin of literature are love and war: this is a magnificent novel of love and war. Written in prose of extraordinary elegance and force, it bridges East and West, past and present, with a story of guilt and heroism.
‘This is the book that Richard Flanagan was born to write.’
In addition to his £50,000 prize and trophy, Flanagan also receives a designer bound edition of his book, and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted.
On winning the Man Booker Prize, an author can expect international recognition, not to mention a dramatic increase in book sales. Sales of Hilary Mantel’s winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, have exceeded a million copies in their UK editions, published by Fourth Estate. Her novels have subsequently been adapted for stage and screen, with the highly acclaimed theatre productions of both novels arriving on Broadway in April 2015. Granta, publisher of Eleanor Catton’s 2013 winner, The Luminaries, has sold 300,000 copies of the book in the UK and almost 500,000 worldwide.
AC Grayling, philosopher and author, was joined on the 2014 panel of judges by: Jonathan Bate, Oxford Professor of English Literature and biographer; Sarah Churchwell, UEA’s Professor of American Literature; Daniel Glaser, neuroscientist and cultural commentator; Alastair Niven, former Director of Literature at the British Council and at the Arts Council, and Erica Wagner, former literary editor and writer.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Olawunmi Banjo shows 'Mind Revolution'

From November 1 2014, a solo art exhibition of Olawunmi Banjo titled Mind Revolution opens to the public at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos showing for one week.

One of the works, Conscious Break. (Oil on Canvas, 36” x 48”, 2013)

Banjo: "From my observation as an artist, I have discovered that many creative talents are discouraged and frustrated in attaining their creative potential due to the lack of adequate structures and sufficient support. Our best export is human resources and capital. On a daily basis, we export our best and finest minds that we sorely need for our overall development."