Uzorka, Okeke, Chima in Charred Visions: Textures & Tensions At Soto Gallery
In continuation of its support for Nigerian art and artists, Soto Gallery, from April 13 to 30, 2023 is presenting, Charred Visions: Textures & Tensions, an exhibition of works by Uche Uzorka, Chukwumereogo Okeke and Uchay Joel Chima.
Featuring newly-commissioned works across painting, works on paper and installation, the show draws attention to charcoal’s long history as an artistic medium, dating as far back as early cave paintings to its use among renaissance artists in preparatory sketches.
In Uzorka’s drawings on paper, abstract shapes, markings and geometric patterns reveal the artist’s interest in a spare, but distinct expressive plane where the instinctive gestures of the hand, charcoal’s richness of tone, and the allowances of paper inform each other.
Combining charcoal, acrylic, and pastel in paintings whose blend of allegory and sharp social critique seize on timely issues of patriarchy, gender equality and ownership in Igboland and wider Nigerian culture; Okeke’s works on display, comprise the artist’s latest body of work, The Visitors.
With this title, Okeke references the precarious status of women and girls who, raised to accept the primacy of male authority, are passed between father and husband and are discouraged from attaining independent means of livelihood and social recognition. Drawing from her experience as a first daughter, Okeke likens human forms to landscapes, illuminating the deep connections between claims to and conquest over territory and the process by which political, cultural, and religious institutions maintain and legitimise the objectification of women as a class.
Chima’s mixed-media works find a compelling meeting point between Uzorka’s material-oriented research and Okeke’s socially-engaged themes. Working with an extensive repertoire of mediums including aluminum sourced from single-use beverage cans, copper wire, acrylic, and charcoal, Chima’s installations, within an ongoing body of work he titles Earthen Vessels, extend the artist’s preoccupation with humanity’s often tense and uncertain relationship with its mortality and with the environment that supports its existence.
Charred Visions: Textures & Tensions presents fresh insight into the diverse applications of charcoal as an artistic medium and invites deeper reflection on its social, economic, and environmental impact in Nigeria, where the frequent felling of hardwood trees, bolsters the country’s charcoal production, making it a significant export.