A fresh breath was in the air, ushering in the new year as young artist, Niss Ogulu's debut solo art exhibition titled Norrd Phenomenon opened at Terra Kulture Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos. It was also the first art exhibition of the year for the gallery.
|Massai Girl painting by Nissi Ogulu|
Ogulu’s rendition of regular domestic and outdoor activities, in paintings on canvas, suggests an outpouring from innocent mind not tainted by the politics of style, technique and period, in which the Nigerian art space thrives. In fact, at 20, Ogulu's strokes on canvas are still fragile, but the poetic contents of her themes are as interesting as masterly thoughts of established artists.
Some of the works include a compartmented of three uneven canvas titled A Bad Dancer Blames the Drummer, in which the artist's composite potential is exposed. Also, a lino print style painting of musical scene titled Universal Language confirms the artist's creative use of words in rhythmic tone with her image composition. From what she said are the initials of "my fist name and that of my siblings," the word, Norrd emerges. What is then phenomenal about sisters and a brother's initials as a theme of an art exhibition? "The viewers’ perspective is the phenomenon; whatever they see."
Further stressing the influence of her immediate family is a self-portrait-like titled Herculean Angel. As references for the portrait, she disclosed, are faces of "myself, sisters and our mother." The face depicts "three different characters," that could exist in one person.
Apart from music themes, also common on Ogulu's walls are native African fashion in embroidery, with focus on Massai people's culture. Being a grandchild of the veteran broadcaster and one of Nigeria's top music critics, Benson Idonije as well as sister to elder brother and music star Burna Boy, the musical contents of four works from about 20 exhibited pieces are well connected to the influence of her immediate environment. But the Kenya's Massai culture contents, Ogulu disclosed, "is inspired just watching TV documentary."
Currently a 2nd year student of mechanical engineering at the University of Warwick, U.K, Ogulu's only formal training in art came during her classes at Corona School, Lagos. She probably had a feeling that art would always be a part of her future given the encouragement she got during such a rudimentary level at Corona. "I won several art award as a student during my six years at Corona,"
Her interest in art, even at elementary stage, she recalled, always transcend the level of tutelage she received. She broadened her scope, "visiting art galleries in Lagos." But quite strange, "I don't have a particular artist that I follow," not even any among the masters in Nigeria.
A curatorial note on Ogule's work states: "The works displayed are that of an artist who one would consider, an old soul. Be it a painting of a "Massai Warrior from East Africa" or an abstract piece, which serves as a reflection of the current times, one thing is certain. Norrd has the look of art which can be termed contemporary, but yet nostalgic in the same space."