Visual Symphony… A convergence of art academics, studio mastery
By Tajudeen Sowole
With the anticipatory emergence of the first set of artists to complete doctoral programme in Fine and Applied Arts in a Nigerian university, an art exhibition of works of the students and teachers attempts to underscore the deeper intellectuality in art at such level of academic.
|Agambi's paitning Evil For Money|
THE title of the show, Visual Symphony, the artists stated, is in sync with the studio practice focus of the art doctoral programme of Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Delta State University (DELSU), Abraka,
The exhibition opens tomorrow, Saturday, September 24 at Quintessence Gallery, Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos, and will run till October 15, 2011.
At a preview in Lagos, some of the works to be displayed by the artists five sculptors, ceramists, three textile designers, and seven painters — offer a blend of styles and techniques and artistic contentions. But certainly, the aim of the participating artists is not to reinvent aesthetics of art.
Until recently, the highest degree in Fine and Applied Arts, across Nigerian university was MFA. However, the National University Commission’s (NUC) directives, which emphasised Ph.D. for all university teachers has given art academicians opportunity to escape from reticence and have competitive edge within the community of academicians.
Before the NUC directive, the Nigerian art academia, indeed, had always been engulfed with issues on what defines an art teacher–within the studio practice context.
The debate had always existed between the adherents of ‘you can’t teach what you don’t practice’ and those who insisted that proof of academics lies largely in research, which can only be communicated in volumes of papers/articles in journals, hence the ‘publish or perish,’ campaign of such advocates. Some observers of the art academic environment have condemned a system, that “lay emphasis on publishing to the detriment of production and exhibitions.”
However, the historic Visual Symphony artists appear to have converged these two positions, creating a new dawn in the field of art practice.
|Securing the Treasure by Prof Grace Ojie|
This much, can be deduced from, for example, Ekong Clement’s sculptural depiction of cannon artillery titled Armament, By Who For Whom. The work, reminds viewer of the foundation in armament race.
Also, printmaker, Kunle Adeyemi examines the virtue of femininity in Female Form IV, a wriggling through what defines dignity and the other side of it.
Former ad man, Jay Agambi, reenacts the graphic strength of media studio in a scary composition that stresses the synergy between evil and money.
Even in functional art piece such as Prof. Ngozi Grace Ojie’s pottery, Securing the Treasury, aesthetics blend with ideology.
Other exhibiting artists poised at collapsing the barriers between studio practice and art academics–perhaps challenge the mainstream studio artists – include Abamwa Oghenekevwe Elizabeth, Bazunu Harrie Uvietobor M., Diakparomre Abel Mac. (Ph.D), Edewor Uyoyou Nelson O. (Ph.D.), textile, Edo Patience Akpojena, ceramist, Egede Stephen Chukwuma, Prof. Egonwa Osa Dennis (Ph.D), Ekong Clement, Emeni Onyema Ifeanyi (Ph.D), and Esimike Uchebuike Roland.
Also participating are Imafidon Evans, Njoku Kenneth, Odokuma Ese (Ph.D.), textile Okpu Oghale Omojuwovie, Okwosa Tobenna, Onose Ogheneovo Jude, Sukanthy Visagapperumal-Egharevba and Lawal Adedorin Ibrahim.
Head of Department, Ojie, who was one of the four representatives of the artists in Lagos, noted that in spite of the synergy that, normally, would exist between the ‘Master’ and the ‘Apprentice’, the works show “liberty in tutelage. The doctoral degree in studio art of the Delta State University is a practice-led programme in which materials, techniques/technologies, and other production- induced ideologies take a centre stage.”
She assured that Visual Symphony would show how a Ph.D. degree in Studio does not detract nor diminish professional competence in practice.” In fact, the doctorate in art, she stressed “invigorates professional competence by the intercourse that comes into existence when academic intellectuality is married to creative prowess.”
|Lawal Adedoyin's Teenage Mother (painting)|
THE Vice Chancellor, Prof Eric A. Arubayi in a statement traced the history of the school’s art academic to what he described as “modest beginning.” The department, he disclosed, has its testimonial in the academic and professional competence of staff in the “mounting of Ph.D. degree programmes in the studio areas during the tenure of Prof O.D. Egonwa as head of department, 2007/2008 session.”
This development, he said, has earned the school “the first Department of Fine and Applied Arts in any Nigerian university to mount the Ph.D. programmes in the studio disciplines.” He also argued that the school “has the highest number of Ph.D. holders in the staff list of any Fine and Applied Arts Department in any Nigerian university.”
“The artists’ individualism, sharing technical skills, medium and rules of art making, adjudged to be the preserve of notables among them, are part of the lessons in Visual Symphony,” Egonwa said.
|Vice Chancellor, DELSU, Prof Eric A. Arubayi|
|Prof. Ngozi Grace Ojie, Head of Dept|
Adeyemi, who has established a strong career in both art teaching and studio practice, argued that art could not be separated from other disciplines that thrive in higher academic realm. He noted that even works of Renaissance masters are deep in philosophy, hence the need for artists to keep researching. “If visual art is not a philosophy-based discipline, it has no need being part of the academic system. Doctorate in art, therefore gives artists more confidence to belong in the community of professionals.”
The minimalist, Okwuosa, in this show is brings a naturalist content, perhaps, as a pointer to the strength of the academic environment in broadening an artist’s perspective.
The curator of Quintessence, Moses Ohiomokhare expressed his delight for what he describes as “the high level of creativity in the university. It is indeed a Visual Symphony. The paintings, sculptural pieces, textile and ceramics are quite different and have been influenced by their environment.”