New dawn at work for arthouse artists
A reassessment of the urban environment, within the context of social and economic value, was the focus when Tyna Adebowale, Jelili Atiku, Dipo Doherty and Olumide Onadipe emerged from a group residency programme. The four artists are the first, as group beneficiaries of Arthouse Foundation Residency, which started two years ago with U.S-based artist, Victor Ekpuk.
Supported by Kia Motors and Absolut, proceeds from the residency were shown as a group exhibition titled At Work, inside Kia Showroom, Victoria Island, Lagos. A few days after the exhibition’s formal opening, a visit revealed how the group of artists strengthened the emerging energy of contemporary art in Lagos. Mounted on the floor, almost immediately inside the Kia Showroom-converted space, is a two-piece sculpture of dramatised rendition by Onadipe. From his leaf-style painting on canvas, the artist seems to have used the residency in leaping into another form of sculptural texture.
Titled Conversation With Self and dated 2016, the mixed media of cellophane bags speak to whoever is in the mirror, particularly in generating dialogue about the environment. And in loud colours of semi-reflective temperature, the figural sculpture and a chair, linked by sprinkling of doting objects on the floor – from the feet of the figure to the chair – suggest a journey that is not too far, but perhaps challenging. It’s a depiction of how high demands for certain domestic usage affects the environment.
“The body of work on display is an experimental series that explores materiality and consumption by recycling and repurposing cellophane, popularly called ‘nylon bags,’ and other materials,” says Onadipe.
Adebowale extends her monochromatic canvas, thematically, into the heart of disharmony, mostly noticed in behaviourial patterns of urban dwellers in recent years. One of the 10 paintings highlights, with inscriptions, key words such as ‘Hate, Phobia, Religion, Pawn,’ among others. These disturbing words reflect some dangerous trends that divide peoples in recent times, along ethnic and religious lines. Whatever statement Adebowale makes with her brush strokes of patterned female flesh, the artist keeps expanding such in covert feminism.
Between surrealism and abstraction, Doherty’s brushings and strokes always keep one’s thought stranded. For At Work, the artist gets bolder, perhaps, deeper in his intellectual expansionism that often deals with mystic subjects across cultural and social divides.
However, what looks like a changing texture in his work comes with softened hues in a few of the hangings on walls, at the right side at Kia Motors Showroom. Interestingly, such works appear like processed or negative film edition of his surreal-abstract pieces.
As a window into activism via performance art, Atiku brings into the At Work group exhibition the richness of outdoor performance. His consistence in focusing on the political elite leaps in a fictional enactment of The People’s Welfare Party (PWP), and touches issue such as “budget padding”, a common phrase in Nigeria’s current political trouble waters.
But for Atiku, activism is incomplete without participatory democracy. Perhaps, a possible real political movement might just emerge from the artist’s thoughts, inspired by, or pre the residency.
Two years ago, Arthouse Foundation started the residency project with U.S-based artist, Ekpuk, who had four months research and production work in Lagos. As the first beneficiary of the Arthouse residency, Ekpuk’s activities included Artist Talk and a solo exhibition at the Kia Showroom.
While describing its activities as not-for-profits, The Arthouse Foundation says the organisation aims to encourage the creative development of contemporary art in Nigeria.
Excerpts from its mission statement: “Through a residency-based programme, the Foundation provides platform for artists to expand their practice and experiment with new art forms and ideas.
“By establishing a network that supports cross-cultural exchange between Nigerian and international artists, the Arthouse Foundation embraces contemporary art as an educational model to engage communities, promote social dialogue and advance the critical discourse of artistic practices.”
Last year the foundation moved into a newly renovated building in Ikoyi. The Artist Residency Programme, the organisation says, is at the heart of the Arthouse Foundation’s activities, offering live/work residencies throughout the year in three-month sessions.
Each resident artist is offered a studio space, mentorship, art materials and logistical support for the creation of a new artistic project.