Friday 16 September 2011

Rom Isichei, Kehinde Sanwo and Victor Ehikhamenor

At Quiet Spaces, Women take the podium
Tuesday, 24 May 2011 00:00
By Tajudeen Sowole
 In exuberant expression, Rom Isichei’s Quiet Spaces – a depiction of Nigerians’ culture of indifference – brings to fore misplaced priority of the people as women, instructively, form the conduit in this artistic probity.
IT’S the artist’s seventh solo art exhibition and a body of old and new techniques. Known for his large canvas, Isichei, in this show has more ventilation to express himself at the expansive Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos where the show is currently on till Friday May 27, 2011.
That boldness, indeed, is an ideal medium to mirror a nation whose people are under self- siege as seen, for example, in the mixed media What Their Eyes Saw, Their Mouth Cannot Say, a piece, which represents the typical communal attitude to issue affecting the people. What more could depict shock and disbelief in the images of ladies’ faces with mouth agape, as if an auto accident has just occurred. This explains the national question, as salient issues hardly go beyond the initial expression of ‘shock’.
Passage to Remorse, another work on soft metal and other medium, reminds of the result of this docility. For an artist who had always used images of women, extensively, either in paintings or other renditions, the softer gender, in this show, appears accurate for the theme more than his past shows. Such works as Prayer Warriors, refuge in faith resonance; Preacher’s Wife, extravagant display of wealth by people in leadership status; Habit and Ritual and Glitterati, unmanageable social status, show that through the women, the mood of the nation could be felt. In fact, Preacher’s Wife depicts a country whose major project is spending over 70 per cent of its resources on recurring expenditures.
Split into paintings, mixed media and assemblages, Quit Spaces’ assemblages, again, has stressed that Isichei’s passion in painting does not foreclose a higher degree of rendition via sculpture-like medium. In a Fit of Pique and others in similar content, for example, blend decoral and aesthetics values, making waste recycling materials more attractive. As an artist who is among those receiving the critics’ bashing of being repetitive, particularly in painting, Isichei in his last two outings has proven, over and over with these soft metal and other medium assemblage that “purists” have no monopoly of the much debated “conceptuality.”
Again, in this show, he has another approach to his signature of embossing the canvas: it’s wood dust used to exhilarate his work via satirical images of society under self-siege. From such work as The Preacher’s wife to Feeling Incomplete, the prodigy of woman appears to be calling for probity of the essence of culture.
Though still populating his canvas with women, few spaces, however, has been given to the men. Ahead of the opening of Quite Spaces, he quips: I have been accused of painting only women.” Work such as the Male Model and Red Fabric series, which offer the topless or equivalent exposure (descent or indiscent) of ladies, he hopes would assuage whatever imbalance his work had created, “sub-consciously” in the past.
While nudity on canvas appears unavoidable, there is quite a relief in Habit and Ritual and Glitterati as Isichei’s woman flaunts a bit of dignity. Though Tapestry, one of his works in the previous show titled Traces of Being (2009), tenuously unveiled this technique, the glittering here, this time, completes the characteristics of a restless artist.
From the subtle imploring of palette, which he has used, extensively, in the past, as part of his probity of women’s gazes, to the assemblages that challenge painting in aesthetic contest, and now a satirical form that stresses the artist’s identity of thickening the canvas; something inherent has been distilled in Isichei’s focus of creating timeless images. Some of such works are: Body Language series and Preacher’s Wife, all social narratives of the consequence of being mentally imprisoned. Isichei, in another set of works takes on the extravagant attitude of Nigerians, and notes: “mo.desty is part of the ways to seek a new beginning for the country.”
However, at this crucial period when Nigerian art is making a speedy climb up the art evaluation graph, Isichei is among those artists who are maximizing this opportunity. For him and others who refuse to shed their weight of expressivity on large canvas, new collectors who would want to start with modest sizes are not considered. Perhaps a visit to Isichei’s studio, could offer an opportunity of intercepting small or medium canvas before Quiet Spaces opened. Such idea did not turn out to be a smart one; no such work existed for grab. Isn’t this attitude of ‘I only produce large canvas work’ arrogant? “No,” he pleads. “Working on a smaller canvas give me more expression compared to smaller space.”
As much as large canvas artists have the right of “expressive freedom”, moderate collectors could be totally shut out of this new awakening in Nigerian art consciousness. Would the print alternative provide succour and close the gap of this class mentality? Previous attempts at prints, he laments, was frustrated. In fact, he shows his guest unsold prints, produced in the U.K., several years ago and meant for Nigerian art market. Indeed, artists, art dealers and gallery operators who had experimented with print as part of effort to broaden the scope of collection noted that the public would rather buy original. And if Isichei’s suspicion that “perhaps original art works are too cheap in Nigeria” is true, then it’s just dawn for rising value of art here.
Quiet Spaces, the artist explains has a link to his Traces of Being. Seven years after graduation at Yaba College of Technology, Isichei had a stint with the advertising industries where he worked in various management positions before becoming into full time studio artist in 1997.  
Rom was born in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria, on September, 8 1966. He studied was a student of Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, where he obtained both ordinary and higher national diploma in fine arts,(specialising in painting).
seven years after graduation, rom criss-crossed three advertising agencies in various management positions before finally chanelling his energy into full time studio work since 1997.
he has exhibited widely, both within and outside Nigeria.
he lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria.
Some of his solo exhibitions
2009: “traces of being”, terra culture, Lagos, Nigeria
2007: “chronicles”, national museum, Lagos, Nigeria
2005: “eyes of the beholder”, goethe institut, Lagos, Nigeria
Auction record as at April 2011:   N2.4m (ArtHouse Contemporary auction, Lagos April 2008)

Entrances and Exits of Edo homeboy's ancestral adventure
By Tajudeen Sowole  
 Tuesday, 24 May 2011 00:00 
 WHEN designer, Victor Ehikhamenor’s Entrances and Exits: In Search of Not Forgetting closes at Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos next week, after about one month of showing, lessons of native content would have been added to the Nigerian art vocabulary
THEY are the relics of ancestral polygamous family, village shrines and other creativity related content, which the design artist, during a visit to his village, Udomi-Uwessan, Irrua, Edo State, late last year, rediscovered as part of what had shaped his art over the decades.
This heritance, interestingly, used to be the sub-conscious artistic expression of the artist’s grandmothers on doors that were significant to these women’s hierarchy in the polygamous family.
Entrances and Exits (2010)
The doors, several decades after, becomes analogical in Ehikhamenor’s search for transitory relevance. He noted that people’s memories of changes from child to adolescent and old age “are mystical, not physical, but manifest as some kind of doors.”
In nostalgic moment of what he claimed contributed to his artistic upbringing, Ehikhamenor, during the last visit to the village added some designs, in chalks, to the walls and doors. These form the base for his new body of work, Entrances and Exits In Search of Not Forgetting. Presented in photographs “to protect” the fragility of the chalk medium, some of these works such as Conjugal Visit (chalk on wooden door) Open and Close, Welcome Goodbye and And We They, explain this art of spirituality.
Through another set of works tagged Entrance and Exit series, the design artist brings these memories to bare on his Lagos environment with old doorframes found at dumpsites in the city.
As every cultural value of African origin has to survive despite the mental hostility of foreign influence, another series Uwa Uwa (Home is Home), designs on black paper, attempts to bring the memory of co-existence among Catholicism traditional religions, at least, as he remembers this healthy atmosphere of faiths.
The documentary of these cultural value, he argued was important, because decades after he and his uncles and siblings left his village in search of education and career in big cities of the world, the imminence extinct of these values were real. While lamenting that polygamy and culture of one-child heir apparent contributed to lack of continuity, Ehikhamenor noted that “there was so much value in growing up and being brought up by several mothers and eight grandmothers.”
And in a Lagos art circle that is fast setting a new art value for Nigerian contemporary art, and where lesser prominent genres such as design and photography are gradually making statement, Ehikhamenor’s Entrances and Exits offers an aggressive departure that blends the art genres – installations inclusive.  For example, the white chalk as a medium used to enhance the concept of photographing doors of old mud house as well as the spirituality radiated through the video installation and the Uwa Uwa series crated more conceptual value for his work.
Heavens's Gate (2010)
“There were few things I could pull from memory, but there were many I had forgotten or never really experienced. With a keen eye and a camera, what I discovered about my heritage and ancestral home was shocking. Until then I did not really realize that over the decades I have been sub-consciously feeding off of what was always there as part of my everyday life when I was growing up, which I never really paid much attention to.”
About a week after the show opened, responses suggested that Ehikhamenor’s work is expanding the artist’s patronage. He enthused that nearly half of the large works “are sold.”
Also A Guest for Memory underscores the homeboy character of the artist as old photographs of individual members of the family were collaged in a design composite. This he stated is a tribute to “people that have come and gone in my life over time through the passage ways: mother, father, uncles, family friends and others.”
This body of work, his tenth solo show must have excited the artist, particularly for the ancestral link. “For my future shows, I will still go to my village for inspiration,” he insisted. He noted that artists need to explore the rural areas and argued that the urban setting has been saturated.


  Currently the art director of 234Next newspapers in Nigeria, Ehikhamenor was born in in Udomi-Uwessan Benin Edo State. He has held numerous joint exhibitions, group shows and solo exhibitions, outside the country.
Some of his solo exhibitions abroad are: Beyond The Surface, at Utopia Gallery, Washington, DC and Spirits In Dialogue, the Brazilian-American Cultural Institute Gallery, Washington, DC  both held in  2000.  

  He graduated from Bendel State University, Ekpoma (now Ambrose Alli University) with a BA degree in English and Literary Studies. He also holds an Msc in Technology Management and Masters of Fine Art (MFA) from University of Maryland, College Park in the USA.
Ehikhamenor has been prolific in producing abstract, symbolic works with unmistakable ties to his Nigeria background. He has had numerous exhibitions with strong following in the United States and Nigeria.

In monuments,
Sanwo stretches beyond Lagos

(First published Feb 18-24, 2007)

Kehinde Sawo's assembly of thmbnails depicting Lagos architectural heritage of old
MAN’s effort to add values to his environment and complement nature would mean little without documentation.
That much was recently demonstrated as painter, Kehinde Sanwo expresses in his art exhibition, bringing back historical features of uncommon value.
  Known for his works on architecture documentary, Sanwo takes a step forward from his previous shows of the same theme. His latest effort, Landmark, which just held at the Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos was enriched as the artist extends his research beyond Lagos and included Abeokuta and Ibadan.
  As a result of post-Trans Atlantic in slave trade and colonial rule in the areas that was later called Nigeria, the face of architectures in Lagos and Abeokuta was said to have been influenced by the slave trade. It was considered a class and elitist taste then to have one’s building designed either the Portuguese or Brazilian styles. Public buildings were not also left out of the status thing then.

As creativity, over the centuries, takes a pause in the drawing room of the architect after offering monuments that beautified the landscapes, Sanwo’s pantings refresh  our memory of those lost imported architectural designs that used to add aesthetic and poetic values to the skyline.
While few of such buildings have since given ways to other developments, there exist few ones. For example, did you know that the present location of the Tinubu Square Fountain, at the junction of Broad Street and Nnamidi Aziliwe Street, Lagos Island, used to be the site of the first Court of Appeal in the whole of West Africa? Remember Soldier Idumota (Unknown Soldier) statues at the small Idumota garden of old? One would recall that as a child it used to be a privilege-visit to see these statues that have now been removed from that famous spot. 
  And how do we revisit early Christian missionary in West Africa without mentioning one of the oldest churches in the sub region, Saint Peters Church, Ake in Abeokuta as well as a colonial public building called Bower Tower in Oke Aro, Ibadan.
  These and more of such monuments were brought to life on canvas by Sanwo in his impressionistic paintings.
  An exhibition of this kind reminds one of the huge loss in tourism value that has gone with the demise of quite a list of these monuments. While the Tom Jones building, the Water House and other noteable Brazilian architecture designs such as the Olaiya Family House (Ilojo Bar) –  some metres from the Tinubu Square – are still standing, others depicted by the artist are as good as dead. Even though the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) has acquired the Ilojo Bar, for example, neglect is the glaring feature of the building ever since it was listed as a national monument. 
   The artist, from the on set, had his focus on the shrinking list of heritage buildings of his people when he had his debut solo exhibition, Legacy on these architectural monuments in 1996 at the Brazillian Embasssy, Victoria Island, Lagos.

  Trained at Yaba College of Technology and gradiuted in 1987, Sanwo was born Lagos on September 17, 1963.
 Solo exhibitions:Solo Exhibitions:
  Nigerian Landmarks,
2007, Lagos, Nigeria.
  Moments in Time,
2002,  Lagos, Nigeria.
In the past
, 1997,  Lagos, Nigeria.
1996, Lagos, Nigeria.    

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