Strokes, empathy of Ukenedo for silent voices
Standing for something comes with boldness of expression, even with palette knife or brush strokes of an artist. For Chamberlin Ukenedo, the canvas is a natural tool in representing the voiceless of his immediate environment.
And perhaps, the ideal place to make the cries of the neglected people heard is the heart of the affluents, where, most likely, policy makers dwell. With about 24 paintings, Ukenedo is currently engaging the privileged class and others – whose action or inaction makes the difference – in his solo art exhibition titled Silent Voices, showing till May 6, 2017 at Quintessence Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos.
In figurative of mostly portraiture kind, Ukenedo pours his mind onto the canvas, representing what he says are the “unheard voices of my environment.”
From losing his father in what looked like unauthorised medical evaluation, to other similar situations that often lead low income earners into avoidable tragedy, Ukenedo is being inspired to render images of people who need helps – big or small. In fact, the recent rise in suicide deaths among Nigerians, appeared to have energised his choice of themes.
Some of the works include elongated neck female portrait titled All Eyes On Me; Oju Loro Wa series (boy and girl), laying emphasis on eyeball-to-eyeball; a three series of mask-like, Everyday People; and a love content one, Apple of My Eyes Series, among others.
“As an artist influenced by his environment, my works speak not just for myself, but also for everyone who shares the same existential space, including the disenfranchised,” Ukenedo explains in his Artist statement. “My perception and ability to portray the complexities of human emotions has inspired this body of works about the everyday Nigerian whose condition has forced a new way – a different medium – of expressing the melancholic soul of his life.”
After 16 years as an advertising professional, Ukenedo who argues that there is freedom for artist outside the confinement of ad agency creative studio, stresses how “ad gives you money, but Art brings freedom.”
An artist with bold llustrative skill, Ukenedo captures attention by laying emphasis on the crucial features of facial expression, thus stimulating dialogue with figurative rendition of images. This much is expressed in such works as Looku Looku, Will You Marry Me? Help Me and Oju Loro Wa series. For these paintings, the artist highlights the importance of eyes sometimes the lips, in subtle communication. In fact, Ukenedo’s styles and technique in facial features rendition could be a great asset to animators who might be interested in making silent film.
Excerpts from his Artist Statement:
Because life and art imitate each other, Silent Voices reverberates their mood, spirit, expression and reaction to life as a people.
What we do not say or have not said is often times captured and externalized through a gradation of facial manipulations involving the lips, brow, chin, nose, eyes, cheeks and all.
Silent Voices asserts that the face out there is an art piece; for we cry, we squint, we gaze, we frown, we glaze, we scowl, we pout, we leer, we scoff…at the checkered rhythms of life. When we are stripped of words, the eyes are the messengers of the soul.
“So, we keep our eyes open (or peeled), we see eye-to-eye with some but turn a blind eye to others.
Some people relapse into absent-mindedness and become looku looku! while some are simply the apple of one’s eye.
Some are distressed and need help. You may prefer body language but ensure that no one would pull the wool over your eyes.”