Akhirebu… Stepping into new dawnBY TAJUDEN SOWOLE
(First published in October 2007)
HE is arguably one of the few painters in his generation whose works offer hope that there would not be a vacuum in the art gallery after the exit of the ‘living masters’.
Though he is a graduate of the Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State, impressionist Simeon Akhirebu has taken the loud colour peculiarity of school's art alumni to another level. With ease, his work could be picked out from a crowd at any point in time.
Beach Activities (oil on canvas, 2007) by Simeon Akhirebu
His debut solo, A New Dawn, which ran at the Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos on October 16 through 11, exposed an artist’s pregnant search for ideas that offer excitement beyond the ordinary.
Quite a number of the exhibits revisit the survival syndrome, particularly in Lagos, as the artist brings some familiar characters on canvas. In all, 26 oil paintings and six drawings, including water colour, charcoal and pencil made the show.
From the typical mad house bus station scenery in Lagos, captured in Molue Scene, to the struggling woman, as seen in Eleja Market, and the zero-hygiene level displayed at some of these markets, depicted in In the Spirit of Commerce; the price of survival is indeed costly.
And the ‘never give up’ spirit of the Nigerian was also celebrated in Instinct for Survival where the male character in the works supports a basket full of tomatoes with his shoulders.
REMEMBER that classic Jewish movie, The Ten Commandments, by Cecil B. Demille? Oh yes! That scene where Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea comes to mind in the large-sized piece called Beach Activities. Though there is no Moses in Akhirebu’s work, and no characters trailed by Pharaoh, the flow of the crowd across the canvas is so similar to that of the aerial view shot in the movie — the spread of the people from the foreground as it thins into the distance, left of the canvas, is synonymous with an exodus.
|Eleja by Simeon Akhirebu|
The blend of the sky with the sea at the horizon takes one into the wildness of the scene, just the few revelers who fool around the bank of the beach, away from that wildness indicates that there are no go areas even during leisure.
Akhirebu, in this show, remained strong as one of those hard-line artists that throw raw primary colours at you in their loudest form. However, if you are allergic to those eye-popping colours, the artist brings a relief of sort in the monochrome, Eko in Perspective, where electricity poles and cables compete in aerial battle for space. Also in dye tones, One Wet Day in Oyingbo and Reflections, as the artist suggests that blue, scientifically, is the emitted colour of a wet day. Again, his focus in these works are on those at the bottom of the class ladder.
FOR Akhirebu, the outing was a debut, which explains the theme of the exhibition. It is a significant page in his career, he stresses. From this point, “a new Simeon is emerging, a rebirth,” he adds.
He made his debut in a group show, Salon, at the Benin Club, Benin, Edo State in 1999. He had since followed up with over 10 others including Emerging Culture, Abuja and Miniature Art Fair, Lagos in 2006.