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From Onali, Uzoma, come diffusion of consciousness on canvas

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Incognito by Promise Onali, Acrylic on canvas, 4 ft x 4 ft, 2016

Promise Onali and Chibuike Uzoma, whose canvas textures differ sharply, have a meeting point in ‘probing’ of human consciousness. The artists trace behaviourial patterns to long period of specific shade in socio-cultural attitudes. With a focus on ‘consciousness’, the artists recently set out for Diffusion, the title of their show, which held at the Temple Muse, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Onali’s work, most often, exudes highly texturised canvas with subtle hues while Uzoma’s boldness derives its strength from the loud side of colours.Not exactly new to the Lagos art circuit having shown in the city recently, Onali continues with his canvas of relief texture. In embossed application of mixed media, Onali takes contemporaneity to the realm where materials used on canvas speak in volumes.

And when he chooses to be less aggressive, his brush movements engage his subject in graphical tones. For Diffusion, he appears louder in abstraction and subtly celebrates figurative expressions. In works such as, Satori vs Entropy, Incognito and others, Onali’s illustrative tones energise the exhibitions’ architecture. In Safari vs Entropy, the depth of visual presentation lifts the contrasting context in which the theme emerged.

The artist noted that a people with “importation without productivity mentality” creates imbalance that distorts the environment’s healthy value. “There has to be a balance to enhance our environment,” the dreadlocked artist said.

Still on consciousness as a key factor in the show, Onali brought in his career as a gooot example. He noted that a movement from one state of consciousness to another, just like change in his studio location was informed by being conscious. “I started my career in Port Harcourt, but moved to Lagos,” for better visibility.

And now that he is in Lagos, the aggression on his canvas can’t be ignored, so suggests materials such as wood, paper, fiber, metal, wire, fabrics and polystyrene, sometimes coalesced into one piece of work.

In a world where more news of tragedy are reported almost every minute with disturbing graphic pictures, perhaps, the last thing you’ll want to see is a show provocatively dominated by red pieces. Uzoma’s strokes for Diffusion seem to derive energy from red. The artist’s thematic focus is on shedding of blood across the world. He pondered over ‘the worth of human lives’, given the large number of tragic situations that occur across the world, almost on a daily basis.

Tracking some of the non-natural tragedies such as, senseless killings, one of his works looks at The Challenge of Multiculturalism. The artist wondered why people perpetrate hatred against one another, which sometimes, lead to conflict of wide dimension.

Still on the contrast that exists between his thematic focus and tone of his canvas, Uzoma explained that the loud colours on his canvas drive the message faster.

“We have to be honest with the situation we found ourselves,” argued Uzoma who is on his way to Yale University, U.S for a master’s degree in Fine Arts later this year. He insisted that his choice of tones “records situation as it is.”

Another work of the artist exposes how he is “inspired by the way freedom is interpreted by different people.” Supported by Veuve Clicquot, Diffusion is no doubt a meeting point for two sides to visual language. Most often, every curator’s delight exists in the kind of combination that brought Onali and Uzoma together. As a curator, I realise that there are so much copying going on,” Sandra Mbanefo Obiago noted. “But I think these artists are pushing up to new boundaries.”

Excerpts from her curatorial note: “Onali’s exact, clinically scientific approach to painting and his commitment to the environment and scientific discovery is a wonderful contrast to Uzoma’s fluid, impulsive and exuberant style which stems from an intellectual curiosity influenced by thought leaders like Franz Fanon and Chinua Achebe.

“Uzoma and Onali’s friendship and professional appreciation of each others’ different approaches to art is quite rare and refreshing.”Onali, born 1982, studied Fine Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he graduated with a degree in painting in 2007. Uzoma was born in 1992 and he graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Benin, in 2013, majoring in painting.


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