By Tajudeen Sowole
When the process of creating a work of art leaps from its natural and intellectual space into academic studio, it becomes a source of research, so suggests the method s of appropriation by artists Dr Kunle Adeyemi and Dr Sukanthy Egharevba. However, the two artists who earned their doctorate status in studio production attempt to strike a balance between academic and populist appreciation of art.
Adeyemi and Egharevba are among the first set of artists whose PhD in studio productions are indigenous, specifically from Delta State University, Abraka, South-South, Nigeria. Having proven that MFA or PhD in Art History should not be terminal level for artists in academic progression, Adeyemi, Egharevba and their colleagues, are not insensitive to the long-range radar of critics. Not intimidated by the dynamics of art appropriation beyond the sphere of academics, the two artists, are currently defending their blend of the Ivory Tower art and studio prowess in a two-persons art exhibition titled Knowledge Across Boundaries, showing at Quintessence Gallery, Lekki, Lagos till June 28, 2015.
While the two artists share nearly something in common in their proclaimed "synthesis" with paintings and mixed media on canvas base works, Adeyemi stresses the strength of art as a philosophy or ideology just as Egharevba coalesces two cultures of Tiv, Benue State, North-Central Nigeria and her ancestral home, Tamil, Sri Lanka. Adeyemi brings his techniques coined paintograh and paintocast as the medium of expression to stress the value of philosophical content in art. Egharevba.goes back memory lane into the visual vocabulary of the second generation of Nigerian modernists or Zarianists, adopting the 'natural synthesis' philosophy to express her concept of dual cultural identity.
With his paintograph and paintocast techniques - a mixed media that produces relief texture on canvass - Adeyemi explores the mood of Nigeria's current political sphere in works such as satire of godfathers titled Razzmatazz of the Kingmakers series; post-elections atmosphere, It's Time To Wind Up (the festival is over series; Victory Beats, a gangan drummer; Persistence of A Winner series; and Stability in the Polity, Political Cross-currents. As an artist of the print genre, Adeyemi, in Knowledge Beyond Boundaries keeps pushing his technique and styles out of the confinement of a two-dimensional space to sculptural texture.
Largely of feminine themes, Egharevba's works though do not suggest that Tiv and Tamil women have something in common, culturally, the narratives about womanhood across the two minorities of each country makes for incendiary creative contents. Also, the 'research artist', in some concept swaps culture of the two people in fashions. Some of the works include domestic challenges of women titled The Burdens We Bear, Pangs of Womanhood, Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice, Adolescence, My Own World and The Way We Are series, a swap of fashion between Tiv and Tamil women. However, in the area of traditional beliefs, Egharevba distils slight commonality in "multiple circles, mythical sun, and snake." And of prominence in her work is the Tamil culture of floor decoration, which adds quite a great depth of aesthetics to her paintings.
|Political Cross –Currents by Dr Kunle Adeyemi|
For the two artists, Knowledge Across Boundaries is a dream come true in honour of Egharevba's father Ponnaiah Visagapperumal (1936-2011). "We dedicate this exhibition to my father who encouraged me to do the PhD programme," Egharevba disclosed. "He wanted me to go further beyond his limit in art education." Adeyemi confirms the input of the late art teacher. "We have been planning for this show for quite a while in honour of her father, who actually suggested the idea."
And as PhD programme in indigenous Nigerian academia appears to have given a new consciousness to 'studio production' - within academic environment - Adeyemi is in the frontline of the new dawn. He has been consistent in his effort at proving that though studio production was not exactly new in the academia prior to his DELSU experience, a post-MFA studies goes beyond paper qualification. "My studies at DELSU has actually brought out more philosophical strength from my work," he explained. "It strengthens my studio practice." He insists that "no work is ordinary; every piece of art is a philosophy."
Perhaps there is a thin line between academic appropriation of art and philosophy. But how does a simplified appreciation of art comes in, particularly in aesthetic value, which knows no boundary? He argued that "attractiveness in art don't go alone without the philosophy." He cited example of two works from the same artist; one is a museum piece, the other is not.
Adeyemi was among the artists from DELSU who showed Visual Symphony at Quintessence, Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos in 2011.
For Egharevba, her PhD studio final exhibition was based on a research about the two cultures, she is focusing in Knowledge Across Boundaries. Titled Tamil and Tiv Expressions: synthesis in Contemporary Studio Painting, the exhibition featured what she described as "cultural motifs, symbols and other pictorial elements" of the peoples.