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In the Contemporaries II, Osahenye, Abass Adewuyi, X-Ray post colonial Nigerian Art


‘Round and Round We Go by Kainebi Osahenye, (Spray paint, oil, charcoal on canvas, 2016, 183 x 183 cm)

In the mood of Nigeria’s 58th independence anniversary, the art integrity of the country is being viewed through the works of three artists.

Significantly, in Lagos, the city of Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the artists’ works also represent current dynamics of the country’s post-colonial visual arts expression.

Currently showing as Contemporaries II at Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi Lagos, it features works by Kainebi Osahenye, Kenny Adewuyi and Kelani Abass.

Organised by SMO, the first edition of the series was in 2015. It held in the same space with 11 artists participating.

Just like the art movements that have attracted rave reviews and discussions in the west, contemporary art, in the Nigerian space, keeps bringing emotional reactions.

Whatever the issues are, it’s very obvious that ‘contemporary’ has become the new face in Nigerian artistic expressions.

Apart from SMO’s The Contemporaries editions, there exists Young Contemporaries series by another space, Rele Gallery, in the same Lagos.

In fact, the city also has it’s own Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos, which is over 10 years old as a space for convergence of radical interpretation of visual culture.

In content, Osahenye, Adewuyi and Abass are no doubt artists whose works radiate contemporary aura. As painters, Osahenye and Abass, in recent years, have changed the textures of their canvas, moving completely away from the traditional forms and context.

For Adewuyi, his rendition of sculpture gives a broader meaning to form and perspective, even though his style has a faint Giacometti’s.

In The Contemporaries II gathering, oil spray paintings and charcoal titled, Some Have Eyes But Cannot See and Round and Round We Go expose the new aggressive visual expression of Osahenye.

For example, in Some Have Eyes…, the artist employs five human imageries masked in spray technique over ochre of rhythmic shades, to generate an analogy of sight. The relativity of sight, in each of the figures, is profound. The artist’s thought centres around the Nigerian question of still waiting for the desired change in governance.

Adewuyi, a sculptor whose moulding embosses distorted imagination into reality, in this exhibition, lifts sculpture beyond three dimensionality.

For example, in Distinguished Edition 2, Adewuyi deconstructs the rule of perspective with a dramatic expression. In another piece titled, Dignity of Labour, bronze, as medium, complements strength, as the artist, again, shows that breaking the basic rules in depth and perspective goes beyond generating stylised figurative sculpture.

Arguably, Abass is one of Nigeria’s artists whose canvas in a short time, has been transformed very drastically. From being a realism painter, Abass has unearthed his family trajectory in printing technology and built it into his art.

The artist had rave reviews when he had his solo show of the same theme, Man and Machine, in 2011, at Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi. The artist’s Man and Machine theme basically brings together technologies, mostly from modern era with contemporary imageries.

Among such works in this current show is Chronological Remuneration IX (acrylic, oil magazine, cut-out, corrugated card and twine on canvas diptych, 122x184cm).

Also, at The Contemporaries II, Abass appropriates the controversial reiteration by Barack Obama about ‘African-Americans’ role in building of the White House.

The painting titled ‘Man and Machine: Wanted’, the artist explains, “is inspired by Obama’s comment on blacks building the White House.”

Simultaneously opened at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London and at the Wheatbaker, Lagos, the exhibition asserts the expanding strength of Nigerian artists beyond the home base. “The Contemporaries II exhibition presents strong visual narratives and powerful figurative abstractions, which explore historic socio-political narratives, the dignity of labour, technology, and the environment vis-a-vis unbridled consumerism,” says, SMO, in its curatorial statement. “The exhibition marks the nations’ 58th independence day, presenting three artists who have contributed significantly to the vibrancy of Nigeria’s contemporary art scene.”

Supported by the Wheatbaker and Louis Guntrum Wines, the exhibition also marks the space’s seventh anniversary as a boutique hotel.

“As we celebrate Nigerian Independence Day and the Wheatbaker’s seventh anniversary, this important exhibition reaffirms our commitment to celebrate the very best of African creativity, ” says Mosun Ogunbanjo, Director of the Wheatbaker.

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