Duke Asidere, Gerry Nnubia, Ndidi Emefiele (Nigerians) and a Cameroonian, Joel Mpah Dooh are four artists whose works go on display from February 26 to March 1, courtesy of Omenka Gallery, at the second edition of the Cape Town Art Fair, V & A Waterfront, South Africa.
With the exhibition, Omenka strengthens its international exploits for artists of African origin or base. Last year, the gallery took quite a number of Nigerian artists to art fairs in Europe and the Middle East.
One of works for Cape Town Fair, a mixed media on canvas, Eva, 2014, by Ndidi Emefiele,
According to Ladun Ogidan at Omenka Gallery, each artist comes into the Cape Town Art Fair with different "primary point of investigation." For example, Dooh, she notes, "is preoccupied with experimentation and has enjoyed international critical acclaim with his paintings and multi-media works.” The artist, Ogidan explains, is inspired by the tactile reality of his environment though is mostly an inner traveler. He works on paper, canvas, corrugated iron and most recently acrylic sheets. “The Cameroonian also incorporates earth, paints, clay, packaging, wood, and chalk to explore the fragility of individual human identity and how we reinvent ourselves while moving and evolving in the city.”
For cubist, Asidere, it’s about themes that engage contemporary African politics. “Through visual metaphors, the artist comments on the everyday human drama that surrounds him; political, social, psychological or cultural. Furthermore, he adds an element of surprise to these sketches of human drama by infusing them with irony and humour.”
Asidere’s broad oeuvre, the gallery says, includes headless or limbless figures and faces of strangely hybrid beings as well as densely populated urban landscapes, accentuated with thick strokes of vivid colour. And in recent times, his work, it has been observed “has turned to car enamel paint, which he applies with a spray gun to produce emotionally charged works that retain figurative subject matter, and at the same time emphasise abstract qualities.”. Among the painter's high point on canvas is "simplicity of form and expressive line."
For Nnubia's texture of canvas that "offers critical possibilities for painting," it also delves into what the gallery describes as "tensions between form and formlessness, vital to the tenets of modernism with his acrylic flow.” The artist’s technique features "skillful manipulation of his medium to a liquid viscous flow often assimilating accidental occurrences and temperature adjustments, depending on the effect sought."
In the rendition by Emefiele comes the traces of combined ancient Egyptian and Yoruba aesthetic flavours. Omenka notes how the artist "adopts the historic practice of using the body symbolically, dating back to the sculptures and paintings of ancient Egyptians, whose “god-like” pharaoh was often depicted much larger than ordinary mortals as in his erect, stiff posture signifying unyielding majesty and authority." Also, the heads of the female figure, it has been observed ,"are large, bearing semblance to those of traditional Yoruba sculptures, carved disproportionately to other parts of the human body to emphasize its function as the seat of wisdom, upon which the destiny of an individual is carried." The strength of the artist in depiction of the female body "becomes a contested site and an important source of information, through which she challenges established notions of beauty."
In gathering the artists for the Cape Town event, the main focus, according to Omenka was "a strong contemporary outlook" that engages the traditions of African art history. The result is "in iconic imagery that captures intense and challenging moments."
Omenka is one of the leading art galleries in Nigeria and 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 exhibitions 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, Cologne Paper Art, Docks Art Fair, Lyon, LOOP, Art14, and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. Additionally, Omenka encourages a cross fertilisation of ideas by collaborating with leading galleries across the world to bring the work of many international artists to Nigeria, often for the first time. Omenka Gallery also organizes several workshops and residencies to encourage curatorial and professional artistic development.