From art ‘wilderness’ Nwadiogbu finds Effort
AFTER digging into his art trajectory to step up his game, Olisa Nwadiogbu recently filled the walls of National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, with a new body of works simply titled Effort. The solo show has a link to the artist’s early encounter with engraving, about 28 years ago.
With so much creative energy invested in the exhibition, employing nearly all the known basic techniques and medium in fine art, the artist had little vocal explanation to make as he formally welcomed visitors to the show. “Effort means a different thing from my last show,” he told the moderate number of guests, some of whom had walked round the exhibition space and viewed the works. “These are engravings, paintings, mixed media and installations.”
Apart from attending art events regularly in Lagos, Nwadiogbu is not an artist whose work falls into the ‘’artist in your face’ kind that could be picked anywhere like sachet water. But if being non-prolific is the artist’s virtue, he also has additional strength in eclectic contents as Effort appears like a group show of more than three artists. From Nwadiogbu’s style of engraving, for example, quite some different renditions exist so suggest such works as ‘Heritage’, ‘Peace in our Hands’ and ‘Festivals’.
Nwadiogbu, a modernist, brings some contemporary touches into his paintings as seen in works such as ‘Black Singer’, ‘Abstract Series’, ‘Head of a Seer’ and a self-portrait. Going deeper into the space of contemporaneity – with native contents – he had ‘Kolo Mentality’, an installation of disused objects in sculptural form of a figure.
Basically, the strength of Effort lies in some of the works he described as “original engraving,” in which he makes the native Igbo contents louder. Such works included ‘Obinnamill’, ‘Kpari Jeli Nkisi’ and ‘Anyanwu’. The artist’s employment of diverse tones such as multiple colours for some and monochrome for others in the engraving works add some excitement to the walls.
And adding strength to the gathering of Nwadiogbu’s art of all ages are some of the paintings that hove over abstract contents. For examples, two works Red Face and Black Face create a visual dialogue that perhaps, has mystic contents. In fact as an art piece, Red Face engages a viewer in deep intellectual thought, particularly with a red swim of motifs over a silhouette background of black and white.
Also, in another painting titled Black Singer, Nwadiogbu flaunts his mastery of impressionism as the figures, through in swift brush movements, are exposed by the yellow and red background.
From the series of abstraction comes Abstract 1, in which Nwadiogbu’s paint flow-effect on the canvas appears to create a conflict of theme, suggesting a semi-figural rendition in outlines of red dripping over yellow and shades.
In his Artist Statement, Nwadiogbu explained his thoughts about the wilderness of art exhibition: “Ordinarily, most Nigerians associate wilderness with numerous meanings and attachment. Interestingly, wilderness from the biblical point of view refers to a solemn place that provides a platform for reflection, spiritual projections and positioning for greater things in the immediate and in the future.” Relating his sermon to Effort, he disclosed that “it is a collection of my experiences and travails before, during and on the way from the wilderness” of art.
He recalled doing less of engraving and venturing into large pictures in oil and watercolor for some years. But later, he felt the need to use original engravings, which he started from 1993.
His story: “Interestingly, my exploration followed an encounter with Edwin Inyang, who was then an informal student at Bruce Onabrekpeya School of art.
“I must also say that the chance meeting with Inyang in 1987 had not only left an indelible mark on my works but brought out an inner creativity through engravings.
“Although I have always worked with foils using engraved panels as master plates, numerous years of deep interest in engravings has crystallized into a peculiar technique and new art mission and vision.
Today, these works on exhibition started as preliminary sketches on pieces of paper and then transferred to the lino, board or even tiles mounted on panels.”
Noting that as much as Western culture and tradition, which influence education, have truncated native African civilization, the artist boasted that he has “succeeded in emancipating myself from the vestiges of cultural imperialism.” The contents of Effort, he argued, “attest to my African root, especially in the culture and tradition of ancient Onitsha kingdom, uli nsibidi signs and symbols, religious rituals to mention but a few.”
The exhibition was the artist’s third solo outing, perhaps deliberately, at the same National Museum Gallery space. He traced the idea of the show to his “exploratory and painstaking visits to nation numerous, arts galleries and participation in several art workshops, seminars, salons and exhibitions.”