Wedlock of traditional and contemporary expressions in Williams’ borderless art
Across the landscape of visual cultural expressions, a quiet, but steadily growing young creative professional, Sadiq Williams, is making his presence felt. His fresh contemporary imprint on the city’s creative space combine traditional and contemporary expressions just as his art and design content generate critical and commercial appreciation, previewing futuristic appropriation of art. From the background of architecture, Williams coalesces fine art, filmmaking, martial art, poetry and music writing. After his solo art exhibition titled Memoirs of a Black Box, shown at Revolving Art Incubator (RAI), last year, Williams extends his multi-faceted expressions across other genres. Even as early as February, he is already involved in an international performance dance workshop.
At RAI, a non-commercial art space inside Silverbird Galleria, Victoria Island, Lagos, the artist’s multi-disciplinary visual expressions resonated on the walls and floors last year. In the body of work that included mixed media wall hangings and performance, Williams who works in Lagos and London – took visual appreciation of cultural contents to a new contemporary level.
Drawing what he described as inspiration from his multi-dimensional creative disciplines, his last solo, mounted on three floors at RAI probed the quartet of human existence. The exhibits focused “body, mind, heart, and spirit” within the context of what the artist articulated as “a recollection mechanism in documenting culture, custom and tradition.”
Interestingly, the exhibition, which was curated by Jumoke Sanwo, also had a link to the artist’s personal tragic experience. “It was influenced by a personal loss during the 2007 London bombing, which triggered a wave of consciousness in him,” explained a curatorial note of the exhibition. “This wave led to a quest to develop a system of input and output akin to the flight recorder otherwise known as the “black box” installed on modern day aircrafts for the purpose of facilitating investigation during incidents and accidents.”
As a futuristic expression, the artist said, “Memoirs of A Black Box imagines the future generation of Africans uncovering our world today through data recovered from ‘black box.’”
Between traditional processes of creating art and the digital-inspired technique, Williams floats along the divides, noting, “I am a mixed media artist exploring the contemporary, digital and traditional modes of expressions through multi-dimensional approach of drawing from blurring generational lines and the paradoxes of living in contemporary times,” he said.
Articulating his Memoirs of a Black Box, the artist who has an opportunity of working in multi-cultural Lagos and London environments explained, “I draw inspiration from many variants of life as a creative professional in architecture, film, culture, filmmaking, story-boarding, poetry, martial arts and music and as an observer and an avid participant, reality to me is more fluid and less rigid, hence my approach.”
The artist’s aim was to use the exhibition to share his thoughts on handshake across creative genres. “Memoirs of a Black Box explores the intersection between the arts and notions of identity, connections and inter-connections to wider humanity, using performance, visual arts and music et al as a catalyst for engagement.”
However, his approach in appropriation uses what he described as “fluid and dualistic” perspective that explores “the notions of ‘me is we’ philosophy as made famous by Muhammed Ali in relation to history, appropriation and negritude.”
Between an individual and Williams’ conceptual Black Box, there comes again the artist’s liberal disposition in traditional and contemporary forms. In fact, he has something salient to share, particularly for those who create an iron-curtain over space and period.
“I always employ a multi-disciplinary disposition to my process by often exploring contemporary and traditional modes of expressions through multi-dimensional approaches and unravelling layers of blurring generational lines within the confines of culture, traditions, history and the paradoxes of living in contemporary times.”
He now adds the martial arts to boost duality of expression, which comes in a body of abstract paintings, which he “created using a training sequence in shadow boxing.”
However, Memoirs of a Black Box, he said, was still a work in progress along the journey of “creative process.” Generating result he called “experiential dialogue in latex and figurative representation of subjects,” the body of work depicts life’s daily experiences by employing “date, time, objects and events.”
In his short period of career progression, Williams keeps attracting the attention of art spaces and curators. Among such was his involvement with Lagos-based ARTYRAMA online, a new virtual space launched with a group exhibition curated by Jess Castellote. His works from the Memoirs of a Black Box, among other pieces, were featured and they attracted both commercial and critical appreciation. Still on the online platform, he hoped that his work would also be the featured-artist this year, based on the “success” of the last show.
And the opportunity keeps rolling in. “I am currently going to be part of Qudus Onikeku’s Dance Gathering workshop later this month.” The dance event is scheduled to hold along the Lagos Island Central Business District (CBD) on Broad Street. International participants for the dance are expected from U.S., U.K., France, Rwanda, Germany, Israel, Norway, Brazil, Netherlands, Mali, South Africa, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Belgium, who will join Nigerian dancers from Abuja, Enugu, Jos and Kaduna. Dance Gathering adds to his loaded art schedules, as he continues regular appearance at Art Night Lagos, organised by Ayoola Gbolahan and Pierre Chidiacs-led Art Box Lagos.
The Art Night Lagos is quite a novelty in the process of creating art, explaining, “In this group, we create abstract, expressionist masterpieces in a time frame of 45 minutes to one hour akin to speed chess. It’s part of the drive and fascination from which I have over 20 pieces in the collective body of work.”
Quite a number of young artists have featured at Art Night Lagos.
One of the relics of colonial architectures left on the mainland axis of Lagos, an old building now converted to Railway Museum comes as a point of gathering involving Williams and other architects. Over 100-year old, the repurposed building to a museum inside Railway yard, Ebute-meta, was rehabilitated by renowned architect, Prof. John Godwin who led the Legacy 1995 group.
“I’m also part of a project being hosted by RAI at the Legacy site where the Lagos Biennale was anchored,” he said. “Jumoke has selected a group of architects interested in the arts, culture and history.”
The project, he said, focuses on issues surrounding “lack of appreciation and bad maintenance of our culture, customs and historical legacy.”
Among such areas of interests are the academia, publications and real estate, where he noted, “I will be using the architectural/quasi-art installation elements of the Memoirs of a Black Box narrative in this project, with the aim, again, to use a multi-disciplinary approach with the same solid narrative.”
Still on revisiting past projects of relevance theme, Williams would like to repeat The Philosopher’s Muse: An Alternate Art exhibition, where he showcased a body of work titled Transitions & Manifestations. And when it returns, he hopes to show it bi-annually.
Williams is one of the youngest Nigerian artists, whose career evolved through competitive spaces and events in talent hunt. For example, in 1988, he won the first prize, Independence Day, Brazilian Embassy, Lagos, Nigeria; he emerged finalist at Creative Pioneers in 2012 the ‘Can Start Entrepreneur Segment,’ organised by the IPA Institute for Practitioners in Advertising and the London Metro in the U.K., and was among the 12 finalists at the National Arts competition in 2016, organised by Heineken International, Nigeria Breweries and African Artists’ foundation.
Between architecture and art, where exactly does Williams’ practice lean more? “My architecture practice is on a consultancy capacity, between bids and concepts for potential clients,” he stated.
Among Williams’ solo and group exhibitions are ‘Hippie & Gypsie Vibrations Live Art 2 Pieces’ (2018), ‘Black Box’ weekend at The Blowfish Hotel Live Art 2 Pieces (2017), ‘Adire Heritage Festival’ at Freedom Park (2017), NAC Finals, ‘Black Box Diaries: His Story, My Story, Our Story,’ organised by AAF (2016), ‘The Philosophers Muse’ at Blue Mahogany Gallery, Lekki, Lagos (2016), and ‘End of Year Student Catalogue Exhibition,’ Kingston University, Surrey-Upon-Thames, U.K. (2012).
His professional bodies and affiliations cut across Nigeria and abroad. Among such are Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) and architecture professional group, RIBA, Lagos.
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