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After residency programme, artists in Leap Of Fate VI

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Repousee Assembled Sculpture technique by Taiwo Owoyemi

Nurturing young professionals to a great height is the dream of Alexis Galleries. With a desire of contributing to the development of young and emerging African artists, the gallery has given creatives a platform to showcase their talent.

The gallery recognises the enormous benefits of residency programmes for artists such that, apart from the right time, space and materials provided for the effective execution of their works, it also creates an avenue for them to network.

Through its yearly artists-in-residence programme, Fate, the gallery has provided an opportunity for artists to travel and exchange ideas, as well as interact with masters in visual art.

Recently, six experienced and up-and-coming artists, who were taught by foremost visual art professionals in the country, graduated from the programme tagged, Residency FATE (VI). The artists went through a two-week intensive programme that further honed their skills.

Drawn from a different cultural and artistic background, style and medium, the artists include, Olatunde Taiwo David, Taiwo Owoyemi Sola, Usman Semiu Alvin, Kalu Isaiah, Darlington Chukwumezie and Akeem Dada — three sculptors and three painters.

“The residency is to allow exchange among the participating artists,” Patty Chidiac-Mastrogiannis, founder and director of Alexis Galleries, states. “The Fate series has been designed for artists to ‘come, grow and go’ as well as to explore other things.”

In the past edition, the presence of a big and more established artist was meant to inspire the younger participants. For the sixth edition, there was no big artist for the mentorship programme. But this year, the participants received some master artists as guests and facilitators.

Two years ago, Alexis had a senior artist, from the academia, John Oyedemi, who joined five other participants for the 2018 edition.

In 2014, Tyna Adebowale, Chukwumezie, Henry Akhile, Raji Mohammed and Yemi Uthman made the debut edition of the Fate series.

The artists, according to Chidiac-Mastrogiannis, were holed up inside the gallery’s residency space for two weeks.

“The artists will have the opportunity of exhibiting at the gallery what they have done in painting, assemblage sculpture, mixed media and metal foiling during the residency, from February 15 to 22, 2020, ” she says.

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Speaking on the theme, Chidiac-Mastrogiannis says, “Fate is just about people who are destined to come and grow with me and fulfil their destiny in arts. Since inception, over 30 artists have participated, while in this edition, we have six artists from different backgrounds who were housed together for the purpose of identifying themselves, helping and learning from one another and it has been interesting.”

Chidiac-Mastrogiannis reveals that the exhibition is in partnership with an Italian non-governments, Loving Gaze, located in Lekki-Epe, Lagos, and 10 per cent of proceeds from the exhibition would be donated to the NGO as part of giving back to the society that sustained the enterprise.

Managed by ‘a multi-cultural team of 150 Nigerian professionals, Italian expatriates and international volunteers’, most of its financial sources, Chidiac-Mastrogiannis explains, come from private donors. “Loving Gaze also invests directly on projects development and local staff salaries.”

She maintains that the residency had offered participating artists opportunity to fraternise and exchange techniques that improved their works, “The artists, on their own, have good works but have improved with the residency, which for me, is nothing but growth because there are no distractions.”

 
One of the artists, Chukwuemezie, goes analogous with his assembled set of panels, which he titled, Sailors series. In the piece, he mirrors human activities, saying metaphorically, everything human beings engage in is just a passing phase. “The work represents all of us as a people sailing through life,” he says during the media preview of Fate VI recently. He is also showing Chess of Life, which is one of the panel’s eight works.

With the painting of motifs and symbols, the artist creates small pieces of panels that generate a new beginning in the creative process. Though he had conceptualised the panel idea well in the past, the broadening of its scope, Chukwuemezie reveals, was achieved at the residency.

Olatunde brings into the show, Swing in Your Own Direction, a panel of recycled flattened cans depicting fishes in the sea. With motifs that represent other animals, the central imagery is of fish swimming in different directions. “It’s about doing your own thing,” he retorts.

 
In a society like Nigeria, where perception plays a key factor, Alvin brings his personal experience into visual expression. The artist, in League of Gentlemen, challenges the idea of profiling people based on their dressing. He disagrees with the age-long adage of ‘you are addressed the way you dress’. 
 
Using stylised images of men in suits and casuals, the artist places emphasis on the corporate look, arguing that it does not necessarily mean being gentlemanly.

“For example, I have been accosted by policemen because I wear dreadlocks,” he says while sharing his experience. “But at the same gathering, they (police) did not touch other persons who dress in what they considered gentlemanly.” 

With bold figurative form, Alvin, in another piece, titled, The Heavy Weight Champion, brings a nexus between his work and everyday life a winner with everyday life. Success and failure, he says, go together, “just like you strive and keep winning or losing.”

He gave the example of Nigerian-British boxer, Anthony Joshua, as a success story, who was defeated but bounced back to claim his title. 

Owoyemi used the opportunity provided by the residency to promote his coinage ‘Repousee Assembled Sculpture’ (RAS).

Applying recycled material, he explains how his thematic thrust is based on “people’s choices.” Among his works are, Tribute to Mama series 1&2, which he says, the residency environment ‘inspired’.

Owoyemi says he was compelled by the environment to look back at how he became an artist. “It reflects on how my mom pushed me to go and study art.”

Dada flaunts his strokes in figurative pieces such as Pleasant Expectation and Sober Reflection. However, in Pleasant Expectation, a lady who looks forward to a happy home, while in Sober Reflection, a stark nude lady tries to reflect on the past.

“We all have reason to, sometimes reflect back on the past, perhaps, to adjust, for the future, as she is doing here,” Dada explains.

And in another work titled, Confidential, the artist takes charcoal on canvas medium to watercolour texture.

In appropriating the importance of educating the girl child, specifically on the issue of abortion, Isaiah puts the portrait of Prof. Wole Soyinka on a lady’s stomach.

He argued that the painting supports the notion of ‘teach a woman’ to educate a nation. The painting, he says, is quite of significance, “to educate young women to say no to abortion.”

But there is something the artist is taking from the gathering: “With the residency, I hope to do more of female anatomy.”


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