When Ezenwa, Izege, others lit National Museum with 72 works
Juliet Ezenwa Pearce, Ricard Izege, Klaranze Okhide and Olayade Oluwaponmile Babashola were the cynosure of eyes recently when they staged a group show at the National Museum, Lagos.
Having 72 works between them, the artists presented diverse pieces on national discourse, culture, life and issues shaping day-to-day life.
With 30 years as a studio artist, Juliet Ezenwa explored diverse materials for her nine works.
She told The Guardian: “I’m a creative artist and I produce any idea that comes to my head, moreover, I wanted to create abstract work that is none figurative and appealing to the sensibility of those who want a simplified form of art. I researched many elements of design from African art; and I got the colour skin from traditional African art, especially from the Niger Delta, where they use kaolin chalk commonly found in Igbe Shrine.
“One has to remember that those things were designed by creative people; so, let’s a separate religion from the art and give the audience the art that is there. It’s important we separate art from religion. What stopped Benin from protecting the shrine during the European invasion was religion, the fear of the god, and the white man who didn’t know the gods went into the shrine and stole them; the people could have done something but they were afraid. We need to develop the young generation not to entertain fear and destroy artworks, so that the thing that happened in our past won’t repeat itself, not to listen to foreigners who will tell us that our art is bad.
“I put a lot of effort into the work and I have been working on some of the works since 2010.”
For Izege, staging a second major show of his paintings in quick succession following his maiden in 2021 did not come as a surprise. This time, however, he literally stepped out of anonymity into acceptance with the symbolic use of his reverse technique, hence, the title, Pulsating.
In the latest exhibits, he retained his use of broken lines, cubism and introduced the element of painting in reverse. As an intermediate Nigerian artist, he re-emphasises his intent not only to remain visible but indeed to firmly situate his place in contemporary African art space.
Izege treats rhythm and meditation similarly where lighting defines the subject, while other elements such as musical instrument (guitar) are introduced to thematically extend the artist’s intentions beyond playing upon studio lights.
Even so, the concept of rhythm is further amplified beyond the combinative sound of the instrument, to appreciate the rather solitary poise.
The Abuja-based artist, Klaranze Okhide, who exhibited 23 works, was the artist with the most work at the show. She titled her work, Triumph.
In her words: “When you are faced with life challenges, trauma, Boko Haram, kidnappers and in all these we seek a way out, that’s why I titled it, Triumph, and I used the environment to reflect on our social ills and how to get over the negativity, and the only way to do that is by working together to fight corruption, insecurity, take care of the environment, stop deforestation and live harmoniously, we will triumph over everything
Oluwaponmi, who is exhibiting for the first time, is a 100 level student of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), who started painting while he was in primary school.
The 20-year-old artists who exhibited eight works draw inspiration from Fela Music and reading African books.
The visual Art student themed his show on Symbolism, and use colours to pass messages.
“I want to be a great artist that will impact Africa through my art, after this, I look forward to more exhibitions, probably out of Africa. I wanted to become a lawyer and I applied for law but I couldn’t meet the mark, then I went back home and I started reading and I realised the impact art can make and that I can achieve the same thing I intend to achieve through law as an artist.”