Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Different Periods of the Art of Bruce Onobrakpeya

The Palm Wine Women from The Sunshine Period 1965
A Window into the Art of Bruce Onobrakpeya: A Slice of a Master's Oeuvre

A definitive work on the art of Bruce Onobrakpeya would have to be an intense exercise in order to capture the true essence of the artist, this exhibition, which has been confined to a two-week event that is part of several other activities, lined up to commemorate his 77th birthday, would not do justice to the subject. Therefore this presentation aims to highlight a few epochal pieces that will help the audience appreciate the influences of the artist and his response to various scenarios within the Nigerian sociopolitical milieu.
For ease of interpretation, the exhibition is divided into eight segments. Each of these segments represents specific periods in the artist's studio practice, which spans a period of 50 years.

The first segment is the Mythical Realism (1957-1962), which represents paintings, and lino cut prints that depict folklore themes, and Northern landscapes (Zaria). This is the period of his early development as an' artist, which coincided with Nigeria's Independence. The idea of projecting the African personality was of major importance to the artists of this period. It was also at this time that the Zaria Arts Society, the forerunner of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), was formed and accompanied by the propagation of the concept of "natural synthesis". Works in this category include the paintings: Awhaire & the Bird, Hunters Secret, and A Tree in Northern Landscape, and the Lino Cut Prints Zaria Indigo, Two Faces, Boli Woman and Awakening (Negritude)

The second segment focuses on the artist's workshop experiments and his Bronzed lino relief series otherwise known as the Sunshine Period (1962-1967). This is the period when he started to attend various workshops. Some of the popular works of this period include Leopard in a Cornfield (Iino print), Scarecrow (silkscreen) and Man & Two Wives (silkscreen)

The Mask and the Cross (1967-1978) series represents the period when the artist executed several Christian themes commissioned by the Church such as Nativity /I (Iino engraving), The Last Days of Christ (plastocast), Obara Ishoshi (bronzed Iino relief) and Pope John Paul (metal foil)., as well as the Plastography Period, a time when the artist developed a lot of ideas he started in Zaria in the late 1950s and early 1960s such as Travellers II, Songs of Life, and Rain & Cry at Otoragba.

The fourth segment represents the historical vignettes. These are pictures known as the Symbols of Ancestral Groves (1978-1984) They depict historical figures, mostly royalty from the Benin Kingdom such as Oba Aka. Other works in this period include Eghrighri and Ibiebe.

The Sahelian Masquerades (1984-1988) were pieces created to highlight the destruction of the environment These works focused on the on the cultures of the Sahelian regions Works in this period are also loaded with a lot of political undertones such as Horns Of Freedom, and Edjo Aton (principles of good governance), which draws a lot of attention to role of government in relation to the issues of desertification.

The Mask Series (1990-1995) represent the development of images, which inspired depictions of masks treated in different print media that bring out the philosophies of the people. They also address' the subject of change. Images I and /I as well as A Panel of 15 represent this period.

Social Unrest (1995-1999) is the period of strife within the society. This is represented by large paintings, which are prayers for divine help against military
dictatorship and political instability. Here we have drawings and pictures, which focus on the murder of Ken Saro Wiwa. On the front burner. are the ecological and socio-economic problems. In this segment you have works like Ekugbe (Unity), Nude & Protest and Smoke from the Broken Pipe

Finally we enter the Installations Period (1995 - Date), which is the period the artist embarked on installations as an art form. These works are characterized by the arrangement of different discarded materials to create works of art. These installations were essentially to draw attention to importance of protecting our environment. Works in this category include Animals of Eve, Adjene, New City III and Voices of silenced Voices.

Clearly one can see the nuances of the artist and how his works have been closely tied to the Nigerian condition. Working over a period of up to five decades, the art of Bruce Onobrakpeya has gradually transformed from isolated personal view points to more nationalistic depictions as seen in Nude and Protest and Smoke from the Broken Pipe that have now become a fountain of socio-political and historical reference points from which all are free to share.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for showing Bruce's incredible visional arts here.


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