By Tajudeen Sowole
A combination of Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya's print technique and his son, Ufuoma’s evolving styles dominate the body of work at the just held solo art exhibition.
On a quiet afternoon, the paintings, relief foil prints and mixed media pieces of the young Onobrakpeya, under the title My Journey So Far are deserted inside the conference hall at Ford Foundation, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos. The exhibition had opened to the public, formally, about a week earlier, perhaps with traffic of guests who viewed the works.
Tribute to Fela (deep etching print) by Ufuoma Onobrakpeya
But this afternoon, My Journey So Far had only one guest who was being received by a security officer inside the room where the works were being displayed. Not exactly a regular art exhibition atmosphere, but the beam of daylight, through the glass doors, onto the works mounted on room dividers diffuses the sternness of the space.
A series titled Ekenwa Landscape, A Tribute to Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Fish Market in Dakar are some of the pieces engaging one's attention. "The body of work represents my environment and culture," Ufuoma tells his guest as he comes in, breaking the serenity of the room. The contents of the show summarise the artist's career of over a decade of post-training practice. "It's about my paintings and prints spanning 12 years since graduation from University of Benin, Edo State in 1995."
There is something about the 12 number and Ufuoma exhibitions: when he had his debut solo show titled. My Environment, My Culture at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, in 2011, the works, according to him were "compiled over a period of 12 years." And as the first and second of the 12 years roll into each other, the tone of the works suggests that the artist has quite a pool of experimental deliveries. While the debut solo had deep etching and lino prints competing for space, his Journey So Far has paintings and relief foil prints seeking the artist’s preference.
Ufuoma’s Journey offers a clue about which side of the medium - painting or print - his practice has allegiance. For painting, his strokes, as fragile as they appear, may still be accepted as style if the consistence is sustained. His heart, perhaps passion too, goes for painting, but something else indicates that the artist is unconvinced. "I see myself more as a printmaker than a painter."
The Ekenwa Series, he recalls, were done in his university days while the tribute to Fela, a foil print is dated 1996.
Other works, he says, are based on “my daily travels within the city and events.” And in far away Senegal, comes Fish Market in Dakar. He recalls how the environment inspired the work. “Every morning at a beach in Dakar, there were so many activities relating to fish such that I could not resist expressing part of it in my art.” In fact, there are series of the Dakar fishing scenes of which “one was sold at the last Bonhams auction.”
After obtaining a degree in Fine Art specializing in Painting, Ufuoma has also bagged a Masters of Arts degree specializing in Printmaking from Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts, London, U.K in 2002.
He is currently a lecturer at the Department of Fine Art, School of Art, Design and Printing in Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos.
His solo and group exhibitions include My Genesis (Lekki Restaurant Gallery, Chevron Nigeria,Limited in 1997); New Trends in Nigerian Art, organized by Texaco Overseas (Nigeria) Petroleum Unlimited in 1998. Promoter of Nigerian Art: Bruce Onobrakpeya arranged by Goethe Institute Lagos (1999).