Thursday 22 September 2011

Pita Ohiwerei and Ford Foundation

Simple Pleasure in Pita’s Scratchee
(First published October  2006) 
Every four years, the art gallery scene in Lagos plays host to paintings from an artist in the Diaspora.
The artist is Pita Ohiwerei, whose impact home and abroad is built on the technique he calls scratchee.
 Scratchee? Yes, as simple as it sounds, but not as easy to achieve though. In Ohiwerei’s technique, the paint brush is left out of action in the impressionism work, leaving the artist with the knife tools. Knife as a tool in painting is not really a strange application, but what is perhaps innovative about Ohiwerei’s works is that, in spite of the monochrome and light colour of his work, a three dimensional effect is alive.
  Having started his scratchee technique 14 years ago and had solo exhibitions in Nigeria, Europe and the U.S.,  Ohiwerei is back home for another solo titled Simple Pleasures, which opened at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos on October 7 and closed on October 12, 2006.
Beyond the 3D effect of the scratchees, the idea behind the title is equally of interest. In fact, Simple Pleasure is a kind of elixir for those who are in search of refuge of the mental kind.
Pleasure, the works discloses, knows no bound or class just as the artist explains that the true pleasure in life are the simple things that we often neglect. And what are they? This much the scratchee pieces unveiled under the mild illumination of the exhibition hall: parent reading to the child, friends hanging out, playing game of cards – even with strangers – or fiddling with some musical instruments.
  In the artist’s view, relaxing in the way his paintings depict, has nothing to do with one’s material status. These Simple Pleasures, Ohiwerei notes, cost nothing, "but are often neglected while we chase the riches that do not neccesarily bring happiness."
  But there is another way the artist wants to share his philosophy of simplicity. If art has given Ohiwerei an identity to be proud of, why not give back to the society? He once asked himself this question. This leads to his working with another like minds, and art promoter-cum-public health scientist, Azu Nwagbogu, in helping young orphans.
  The idea, Ohiwerei explains, is to use his artist's image and mileage reached over the years, to raise another generation of artists in the less privileged youths.  While his stay lasts in Nigeria, he hopes to partner with other groups like the corporate bodies to ensure that the project takes off before he leaves for the U.S.
  Currently based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., Ohiwerei says sharing, using his art started in the U.S where "my paintings have been used in raising money for a variety of charitable organisations."
  Ohiwerei was born on September 2, 1963 in Nigeria where he attended Federal Polytechnic Auchi and graduated with a distinction in Painting. In 15 years of his career, he has had group and solo exhibitions across Europe, Africa and USA where he has won numerous awards.

The young march out
(First published Mar 25-31, 2006)
SETTING out to view a group show of over 20 artists of diverse genres and medium could be as pleasant as and as boring.
Perhaps any other day after the opening would be the ideal time to visit such a show when it will be very easy to form an independent opinion on the works, devoid of crowd influence.
  This quiet afternoon inside the Terra Kulture gallery on Victoria Island, Lagos, three days after the official opening of the exhibition titled Celebration of Talents, proved the best time to view of show: sunlight, combined with the tungsten lighting, bounced on the works to radiate an aura that prepared the mind for a journey round the gallery.
  Though a painting-dominated show, the other genres such as sculpture and print also offered very competitive atmosphere. In Potters by Afam Okwudili and Miabo Enyadike’s pieces of vases were presentations of contemporary and native African décor arts. Still on sculpture, Clement Ngege’s furniture pieces and Olubunmi Adeyemi’s steel works may be coming from two ends, they, however, combine beautifully for a good home décor.
  How about Ibifuro Harry, Yemisi Ajayi, Akangbe Mojeed and Owolabi’s prints? For Harry, who was part of a recent all ladies show, Womanhood-II, held at Biodun Omolayo Gallery, National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, African prints on vests, and T-shirts is batik without confinement.
 TIME for any competitive exercise in this 22 artists show may have gone after the emergence of Titus Agbara and Tayo Olayode as the leading grantees among the lot last year. But one was curious to probe into the quality of these two artists, who returned from Ghana few months back on residency programme with the popular Ghanaian artist, Ablade Glover, courtesy of the Ford Foundation and Terra Kulture. 
  Olayode’s monochrome oil and newspaper collage pieces as well as Agbara’s acrylic on canvas not only added some class to this show, but justified the choice of the grant programme, as the two artists selected for the Ghana trip. In addition to his view on romantic relationship expressed in bold realism, Olayode brings something from Ghana as explained in the work, Peace at Last, a Snoopy Dogg look-alike figure slouched on a herdsman’s stick.
  In Agbara’s works, surrealism takes another hue. If unnoticed brush lines are parts of the hallmark of great art pieces, Agbara on the contrary brings sharp and bold brush lines into viewer’s face to produce these attractive pieces. And to bring out this multi dimensional perspective in his paintings, Cornerstone, a rural setting of building under construction with its path way of rubbles compliments the work.
   IN August 2006, Ford Foundation and Terra Kulture launched the talent support programme which had close to 100 entries from across the country. At the end of the screening, only 22 made the list.
From that list emerged the leading two — Olayode, a painter and graduate of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and Agbara, who studied Fine Arts at Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State.

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