Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rare pieces of modern Nigerian art Surface In Abuja

The Thought Pyramid Gallery, Abuja, Nigeria is proud to present 
on Thursday Nov 24 at 5pm. Exhibition runs till 1st Dec, 9.00p.m. 2011 


West Africa flourishes with artists. The Lagos arts scene may arguably be one of the most artistically fertile spots on earth, given the sheer number of full time artist living in her environs. The West African artistic landscape has also been described as rich vibrant and often intriguing. However, very often discernable even to the common onlooker, is the towering influence of Titans of the Nigerian Artistc Terrain.  They are the Masters of Visual Arts. Their artistic backgrounds, even though roughly grouped into the formal and informal trained artists, have unleashed a tremendous amount of creativity and fervour into our artistic landscape.  All of the artists below have emerged as Nigerian Masters and by extension celebrated icons of their trade.

The first 4 constitute the Fantastic Four, of Oshogbo Art, and are also the first fruits of the illustrious Oshogbo Experimental Workshop started in the 60’s, under the tutelage and guidance of Ulli and Georgina Beier. A lot of their subject matter attests to strong beliefs, which are rooted in Yoruba culture and life.

Dancing Masquerades Bruce Onobrakpeya Metal Foil

Horns of Freedom  Low relief Metal Foil Bruce Onobrakpeya
Twins Seven Seven was a multi talented artist and performer. Even in death, he is by far the most visible artist that 20th Century Africa has produced. His works are often characterized by epic treatment of characters whether human or animal.  His human forms can often been seen with half shut or sleepy eyes, suggesting a surreal, dreamlike or trans-like state. He is a master of color and an elaborate decorator of surfaces. He is the alpha artist of the great Oshogbo school, widely celebrated even beyond the Nigerian borders. The genius of his art, is that his forms are mesmerizingly engaging and intriguing.

Jimoh Buraimoh comes from a traditional family in Oshogbo, long associated with the majestic art of crown making with beads. His innovative transfer of this traditional art form of crown making with beads, to bead making and painting on flat surfaces, places him with other great innovators like Onobrakpeya and Emokpai as having contributed to new techniques, vistas and methods of experiencing the visual arts. Jimoh Buraimoh is widely traveled and considered by many as one of  the finest folkloric artist in our shores.

Muraino Oyelami, is a visual poet who hails from Iragbiji near Oshogbo. His works have a cool blend of purple, yellow, blue and green colours, they are often juxtaposed, in his landscapes or other themes to form art that is often enchanting to behold. His art reflects and parallels the enduring appeal of Oshogbo art and culture. Muraino’s art like other great Oshogbo artists, suggests to the viewer, that as an artist, he straddles in his art to that magical  wonder world and place, where people, animal and places all converge and sometimes become one. He has exhibited widely outside Nigeria including Ghana and Germany.

The fourth in the quartet is Rufus Ogundele (1946-1996) who was born in Oshogbo. He was also a versatile performer and artist. In 1963 he participated in Denis Williams' workshop. Ogundele combined the European artistic techniques like printmaking which he developed especially under Beier's tutelage with the teachings of traditional Yoruba culture. In 1983 he was artist-in-residence at the Iwalewa-Haus in Bayreuth, Germany. He trained other artists at his studios.

Bisi Fakeye hails from Ila-Orangun, and was born into the Yoruba family of carvers of Inurin compound in South West Nigeria.  He belongs to the sixth generation of Fakeye family of carvers. In 1960, at age seventeen, Bisi Fakeye moved from Ila-Orangun to Ondo where he was attached as an apprentice for a total of seven years to his uncle, Lamidi Fakeye, in between which he trained as a teacher for one year.
Bisi Fakeye found Lagos a home and like Emokpai, he mixed and shared ideas with a new breed of contemporary artists, particularly those trained in formal art schools like Yusuf Grillo, and Ben Osawe.
He has also  participated alongside Onobrakpeya at the very prestigious Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM) Exhibition, Abuja (2003). His work is highly regarded both within and outside Nigeria.

 Ben Enwonwu.  originally from Onitsha, is considered the father of modern art in Nigeria. He was formally trained at the Goldsmith and Slade Academy in he U.K. His greatest pieces show man in his finest form, elevated to the realms of gods. There are several examples of this, the best known being Shango and Anyanwu, which are sculptural pieces, but he is also well known as the painter of the famous Tutu.

Ben Osawe was also formally trained in the west, and was also the son of a Benin carver, his passion for wood for carving and bronze casting demonstrate his love for these media. Osawe loved and marvelled at the anatomy of the female form. His art must rightfully be considered as a modern day continuum of great Benin art, a position he shares with  his other  Edo/Urhobo countrymen Emokpai and Onobrakpeya.   Bruce Onobrakpeya who turns 80 next year, has shared his art and ideas through the Annual Harmattan Workshop now in the 14th Edition.   He has been described as amongst one of the most influential teachers of Nigerian artists.

As Ben Enwonwu was was an early teacher to Bruce Onobrakpeya, so too was Bruce Onbobrakpeya to David Dale. Dale is today, one of Nigeria’s most versatile artists in terms of technique usage. He is very widely traveled in Nigeria, on the merit of his ethnicity, training and professional life. All of these experiences, he leverages into the themes of his works. At heart Dale is a designer, with a passion for elaborate designs and ethnic motifs and patterns.

Erhabor Emokpai is an artist who is known for propounding the idea of dualism in his art. This idea which is similar to to the Yin Yan theory of the Chinese, has as it's main thrust that everything in nature, has a compliment. He is also considered a kindred Rebel by the art historian Kojo Fosu, because of his close association to very many of the artists of the Zaria School, of which Onobrakpeya was one. The astonishing number of works created by Emokpai, and varied techniques in which he executed them, in his relatively short lifetime, places him as an important post independence artist in Nigeria.

The final artist of note in this exhibition is Okpu Eze, he seems to have had a short spell working in Enugu as a carver of large sculptural pieces. A few of his pieces are very contemplative pieces and his works may also have been inspired by important Benin artists of his day Like Idubor.

What seems clear is that the cultural ferment of Lagos as an important art centre, destination and clearing house in West Africa, served as a catalyst and magnet for several of these masters to bloom to fruition.
Ultimately all of these artists should not be merely seen as just masters of the visual art trade, but in many ways must be viewed as cultural icons and institutions worthy of our highest accolades as a society, because their works celebrate great moments in our collective experience as a people.

Sugar Cane Truck Pushers Serigraphy Bruce Onobrakpeya 2011

As a collective the works of these masters though varied, in influence, techniques and place of execution, all speak of the inalienability and the eternal permanence of a Nigerian artistic experience, perspective and contribution to the global art of the world today.

In conclusion, may I also state that all great artworks, some of which are present in this exhibit, should carry our highest accolades. Today’s masterpieces like the great arts of our traditional society, are visual condensations of  important  thoughts, philosophy and belief systems of our people. They carry with them the seeds for celebrating our highest moments and achievements as a people.

The works of all of the aforementioned masters represent some of the modern artistic achievements of our people in nearly 5,000 years of Nigerian art. I can safely commend them to you.

We are thankful to the thought pyramid Gallery for showcasing the Visual feast. BEYOND IMAGINATION AN EXHIBITION BY NIGERIAN MASTER ARTISTS.

Mudiare Onobrakpeya
1st November, 2011

1 comment:

  1. The exhibition at the Thought Pyramid Gallery looks very interesting, I wish I could have seen it.

    As you say Twins Seven Seven made some groundbreaking work indeed, he was able to merge the tradition of carving with painting that the Oshogbo School introduced, and for that he opened many doors. He is an artistic inspiration for me!

    Thanks for this great post Mudiare!