By Tajudeen Sowole
Not in anyway related to a special art auction, Africa Now Contemporary in London, U.K. courtesy of Bonhams, held few weeks ago. But the works of 11 exhibiting artists titled The Contemporaries currently showing at The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos confirms the energy in post-modern African art space.
Nnenna Okore, Duke Asidere, Uchay Joel Chima, Gerald Chukwuma, Raoul Olawale da Silva, Anthea Epelle, Taiye Idahor , Chika Idu, Adeyinka Akingbade, Tony Nsofor and Onyeama Offoedu-Okeke are artists of The Contemporaries being curated by Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago. At the opening, guests who come for lunch at Wheatbaker had it double: a great taste of meal and rich art on the walls of the hotel.
The exhibition is a gathering of 21 paintings, sculptures, drawings and mixed media works that represent current trends in Nigeria, says Mbanefo-Obiago, as she takes guests through the displays, adding, "We have a kaleidoscope of art that brings fresh perspectives on environment and issues like feminism, unity, identity, history and tradition, and freedom of expression.”
On the right side of the ground floor lobby, leading to the restaurant is After, a panel by Chukwuma. Quite a familiar texture of the artist's wood relief, but this time with the burnt part on the edges just as the painting is patterned in gold and hues of brown. Further into the lobby is Untitled, a painting by abstract artist Olawale da Silva, whose work is in a familiar environment having had a solo show here last year. However, da Silva who is based in Lucerne, Switzerland, appears to have softened his strokes of abstraction, so suggests traces of figural in his works at The Contemporaries. The artist had his first major solo exhibition titled Inner Worlds Outer Space at The Wheatbakeer in mid 2013.
The more the academia and their cousins in the business of art critiquing try to draw a line between art and craft, the further artists like Okore keep collapsing the boundary. Beyond the visual perception of scale that tilts the argument towards contemporary expression, of which Okore's work has benefited, conceptual skill in application of materials keep making her work stronger, so suggests Crossing Over (burlap and handmade paper, dye and acrylic).
Among the rarely seen at The Contemporaries is a drawing, Man in Love by Asidere. Collage with newsprint as an extension of the canvas, the figures of a couple rendered in drawing evokes romantic lines in Asidere's palette. Quite of recent, the artist has been showing some drawings.
IN the last one year, Idu's palette knife appears to have found a new identity in coastal or waterside human activities, particularly underwater. In one of such works, The Life We Know, the artist captures endangered 'fun' of the young ones who swim, perhaps, live on contaminated water.
Beyond spiritual thoughts in a covertly cubed painting from Offoedu-Okeke titled Obstacle to Paradise, the abstract impressionism characteristic, which the artist employs, also reflects his architecture background. The resilience of silhouetted-image is explored by Akingbade in a painting titled Spoken Word, which unambiguously shows the artist’s skill in abstract, with strokes of brightness on black canvas.
What appears like natural flow of colours that make forms in figures, and present classic case study in light and shade is seen in the paintings of Nsofor titled Two Apart (Dark Day).
With Pages of New Lyrics, Chima continues his adventure in trying to close the widening gap between man and management. He insists that his work would rather make the best of the situation to generate "beauty, hope and promise."
Remember Idahor's first major solo exhibition, Hairvolution at Whitespace last year? Yes, it exposed her technique in portraiture that emphasises hair, which dominated that show. Idahor stresses her style and technique here again as the artist presents Going Back To My Root.
Repetitive technique on canvas in Epelle's work is taken into textured content in Stand or Fall II, an extension of the artist's visual narration of Igbo women's adopted George fabric as 'traditional' clothing.
Given the fact that nearly all the artists showing in The Contemporaries have been on display at one time or the other under the curatorial work of Mnamefo-Obiago suggests that the works are from one source of collection. "No," the curator responds. "Each work in this exhibition comes directly from the artists." She argues that the exhibition is a robust exchange of ideas challenging its audience not to merely “think outside the box,” but to literally “stand on the box” and use it as platform to behold new vistas.
Okore, Asidere, Chima and Akingbade are among other artists whose works have been shown under the curatorial input of Mbanefo-Obiago in the last few years.