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How six artists’ Faces and Places unearths beauty from Nigeria’s ugly narratives


Exodus 120 cm x 120 cm – collage on canvas – 2018 by Seye Morakinyo

A nation in the period of security and economic challenges has some other things to celebrate in the human and natural contents through the paintings of six artists. Joseph Matthew Bidemi, Seye Morakinyo, Adedotun Fashina, Adeyemi Uthman, Oyelusi Olasunkanmi and Afeez Adetunji are the artists whose works unearth the beauty out of the much-celebrated ugly Nigerian narratives.

Under the title Faces and Places, the artists are currently showing their inspirational and paradigm shift paintings for one week at Alexis Galleries, Victoria Island, Lagos. Interestingly, some of the paintings serve as inspirational contents for a functional decor. Some of the paintings have been re-produced in limited edition fabric prints as cover for cushion and pillows.

Though rendered in visual concept of the artists’ interpretations of their environments, the paintings in Faces and Places represent colourful people and activities in Nigeria, particularly Lagos, a city where multi-cultural texture thrives. Morakinyo’s marine theme painting ‘Aquatic Splendour’ delves into the duality of life, using the two points of deep sea where light can and cannot penetrate. Beyond the science of the artist’s thoughts on marine life, the beauty of the painting lies in its colourful renditions of the sea inhabitants, particularly of shells and fishes. Matted against an invading sea diver, the underwater creatures glow in mostly yellow and other hues. Morakinyo, an artist who has a profound skill in the language of visual culture, replicates nature in resplendence, so suggests his application of colours to depict the duality of life.

“Similarly, Lagos is a place that represents diverse cultures and offers two sides to its attractiveness,” the artist notes.

His technique of collage coalesces colours with waste fabrics to generate an underwater pictorial capture. Taking his brush strokes as high as the level of drone view, Fashina, in a painting titled ‘Mixed Feelings’ captures the colourful commercial activities of people in the market. Yes, market scenes are common themes in Nigerian art landscape. But a few artists inject new perspective. Morakinyo is one of such artists, showing that the beauty of market scenes cannot be exhausted in visual culture expressions on canvas.

“It’s about everyday life in Lagos: an imaginative scene about people and places,” the artist explains.

In Olasunkanmi’s contribution to the gathering are portraits of what represent beautiful faces of the people. Again, colours are the energies that radiate through the country, so the artist’s renditions argue against obvious stories of woes. This much Olasunkannmi renders in ‘Blue Hat,’ a portrait that is loud in fashion and beauty.

In the Nigerian contemporary art scene where realism paintings are becoming less popular among young artists, Uthman is one of the courageous few. In Faces and Places, he continues to express the beauty of the canvas in his journey towards the mastery of smooth brush movements by rendering captivating sceneries of nature.

In a self-taught artist, Adetunji’s paintings come themes that he says are inspired by his environment and nature. Adetunji brings into the current exhibition works that either reflect the past in everyone or exposes the little that people know about the beauty of their environment.

For Bidemi, the human factors in such areas as people’s “mood and gestural expressions” form the core of his theme. Though a young artist, his journey towards mastery of the palette life appears on the fast lane.

Sponsored by Pepsi, Delta Airline, Amarula, Nederburg, Cobranet Internet Service Provider, Cool FM, Wazobia FM/TV, Cool FM/TV, Chocolate Royal, Arra Wines, The Avenue Suites, Art Café and The Homestores Limited, Faces and Places represents colours of Africa. Curator at Alexis Galleries, Patsy Chidiac notes, “Africa is about colours” and argues further, “we need colours and light to keep life going.” The gallery’s choice of the exhibiting artists, she discloses, was informed by the vibrancy of their canvases.

And when she got inspiration from Joan, a designer, Chidiac relied on the vibrancy of the Nigerian artists’ canvas to articulate the art-design merger. Alexis Galleries and Empire Jane, according to Chidiac, are presenting the exhibition to appropriate the art-design concept.

She recalls how Joan was using Nigerian slogans to caption cushions and pillows. And when a huge success was recorded with the design pieces of Joan, she “suggests a collaboration with her for paintings.”

Moon Sawaya, a team member of Empire Jane, says the cushions and pillows “are 100 per cent proudly produced in Nigeria.”

The cushions, which are wrapped in some of the exhibiting paintings in prints, Chidiac assures “are in limited editions.”

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