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Kassi, Banjo, Nwaneri come alive in stasis

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Can’t Let Go by Banjo

A group show of 47 paintings, drawings and ceramic works by three artists from Nigeria and Cameroun has opened at Temple Muse, Victoria Island, Lagos. Curated by SMO Contemporary Art, the show features recent works by the Camerounian Djakou Kassi Nathalie and two young Nigerians, Olawunmi Banjo and Kelechi Nwaneri.

One trained and two self-taught artists, with an age difference spanning almost 20 years, the show draws the viewer into a complex dialogue from three radically different viewpoints. Through detailed paintings, layered and complex drawings, and experimental ceramic works, each artist explores the tension between conscious and subconscious mind. Each artwork questions how to achieve balance despite societal pressures, mental health challenges, and the effects of climate change on human well-being.

Kassi’s sculptural ceramics provide a fantastic counterpoint to Banjo’s finely painted self-portraits and Nwaneri’s mythological and surreal landscapes.

Nathalie is a well-respected mid-career ceramic artist and the most senior of the three. Nathaniel’s works are earth-centered, reflecting a fascination with the grandeur of nature in relation to humanity’s minuscule scale, yet hugely destructive impact on the planet. Her sculpted pots, bowls and plates are covered with symbols and masks, inspired by shared African communal values and a quintessential tension between modernity and tradition.

In contrast, the self-taught painter, Banjo, presents her latest series of portrait of lone figures, rendered in twisted, intertwined and tightly woven wires and ropes. Banjo’s hyper-realistic elegant style embraces a primarily blue colour palette and exhibits a deep sense of symmetry by creating a pathway to a deepened sense of self-awareness and identity through her acrobatic figures.

Banjo’s works analyse the effects of restrictive social norms, and the constant need for external validation and the intense pressure from technology on modern society.

Emerging artist Nwaneri’s charcoal and acrylic drawings on paper and canvas are a complex creative counterpoint to the works by the two older, female artists.

Nwaneri is in his early 20s and a graduate of agriculture from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His multi-layered, charged landscapes populated by masked mythical figures covered with Uli, Nsibidi, Adinkra, symbols, which portray an emotional depth beyond his years.

Nwaneri is inspired by pencil. Through a world rich in mythological expressions, he tackles issues surrounding mental health. His muscled male forms in combat touch on the emotional and psychological wrestling done to achieve balance and self-awareness.

Nwaneri, who is showing 14 of his painting, said, “my work falls under Surrealism, and what I do is African and I try to talk about through emotional experience in my work. I discover that people find themselves in the situation that they just can’t talk about and sometimes they commit suicide to overcome the situation. I’ve been there and I understand how hard it is but I was able to find true relief from that bad condition so, I now decide to paint, talk about works that talk about emotion and social values. My work is not about people remembering the sad moment, it’s about someone getting over it, my art is meant to heal.”

Explaining the concept behind his painting, titled, Can’t let go, Nwaneri said, “we often say time heals everything but after a long time, we remember the troubles, it’s as if the injury is still fresh, so, for that kind of situations, it’s like time doesn’t heal. Basically, Can’t Let Go is a sad memory.

Speaking on her work, Recess, Banjo, who is exhibiting eight works, said, “you have so much distraction and most time we get caught up with work, social life and another thing that we neglect ourselves so, we just need to relax and understand ourselves.”

According to the exhibition curator and founder of SMO Contemporary art, Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, “Stasis provides a creative platform for the three artists with very different styles and philosophies to examine the concept of equilibrium and counter-balance.”

On her part, Director of TempIe Muse, Avinah Wadhwani, said, “the diversity of media and artistic viewpoints are a refreshing start to our fall season.”

Stasis touches on important global issues and we are delighted to provide platform artists to tell their stories from a contemporary African point of view.


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