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New visual narrative with young contemporaries 2018

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‘Olaju… Olaju Yii’

Despite the misty and unnecessary controversy over the definition of contemporary Nigerian art, some young artists whose background are devoid of politics of space and period have been clearing the haze. They are known as ‘Young Contemporaries,’ a curatorial series that show artists of fresh ideas.

In its 2018 series, the ‘Young Contemporaries’, an initiative of Rele Arts Foundation, continues with the focus on artists under 30 years old. Yaseer Claud-Ennin, Habeeb Andu, Abisola Gbadamosi, Dandelion Egho Eghosa and Samuel Olowomeye are Young Contemporaries 2018 whose works are currently showing till February 25 at Rele Gallery, Onikan, Lagos.

Claud-Ennin, whose nationality is stranded on the crossroads of mixed, parental multi-culturalism, brings onto ‘canvas’ painting collages that reflect his identity. Among such pieces is a canvas of ‘Aso-oke’ (Yoruba) and ‘Kente’ (Ghana) fabrics titled ‘Half Nation.’ Quite a tri-composite of collage matted with the artist’s toddler face against the two native African fabrics, as the theme exudes conceptual depth.

Interestingly, the artist’s different stages of growing up form each of the five portraiture pieces on display. At 29, Claud-Ennin, born of Nigerian-Ghanaian parents has a lesson in tolerance to give religious bigots, so suggests another piece, ‘The Coexistence.’ With quotes from both the Bible and the Quran, in the background of matted Muslim tesbih and Christian rosary, the artist brings creative knowledge into liberal, spiritual expression.

In pastel, Olowomeye subtly delves into surrealism with renditions that are figural. Ironically at 25, Olowomeye questions pop culture’s influence in defacing the true meaning of mordernisation. With five pieces grouped under the series, ‘Olaju Yii’ (The Civilisation), the theme puts to shred some fads in fashion and life styles that keep ruining youths across the world. Though not exactly a bad fashion, hair dressing of non-black identity for women of African descent also takes a knock in Olowomeye’s theme. Indeed, natural hair seems on the rise among Black Africans in the past few years.

Andu, an abstract impressionism painter with minimalist traces, radiates cerebral strokes. But sometimes the young artist’s energy of brilliant strokes on canvas is distracted by an army of sculptures that populate the canvas from all angles. Andu won Art-X Lagos 2017 prize for his ‘Blacklist’ (Candle Night).

Gbadamosi’s brushstrokes in figures of watercolour wash are enriched by the print-like textures. For examples, in ‘Awareness’ and ‘Empathy,’ she simplifies female figures, at least within her 22-year-old’s style, in controlling the slippery water medium.

The energy being radiated in the lens’ medium, particularly on the Lagos creative environment in the last few years would make Young Contemporaries 2018 incomplete without photography. Dandelion’s rendition of masked figures on paper collage, in monochrome, appear dramatic. But the assemblage, in what looks like a movie storyboard, require more depth for a visual expressionism via photography. However, Dandelion, 24, is no doubt a photographer to track in the years ahead. Her photography focuses on social themes in gender and sexuality, also questioning the mental health of affected persons.

In 2016, the Young Contemporaries Series made its debut with works of Dipo Doherty, Logor, Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, Eloghosa Osunde. And last year, preparation for the 2018 edition started. “With support from Rele Arts Foundation, each one of the 2017 selected artists was awarded a grant to produce the body of work,” Adenrele-led Rele Gallery says in its Curatorial Statement.


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