Thursday 22 September 2011

Susan Ogeyi Omagu

freshly Minimalism

(First published 15-21 Apr 2007)

As the first quarter of 2007 draws to a close, the entry into the colourful art gallery scene in Lagos, of an uncommon art form, seems to complete the dynamism that exists on the art landscape.
Though each of the few shows earlier on, has presented something different from the other, but in Susan Ogeyi Omagu’s Minimalism, currently showing at the Goethe Institut, Victoria Island, Lagos, is a rare expressionistic forms, which perhaps, offers another look at the way art represents our values.
  The exhibition which opened on Saturday, April 1, 2007 through May 4, 2007 may not be one‘s idea of art within the decorative context, even as abstraction expressionism, but the artist turns the canvas into a mirror in which, everyone’s reflection stares us in the face.
What a thoughtful one in Pleasure, Pain, Walk Away, a figural of a lady with red highlights in the earrings and the patches of a piece of clothing somewhere ‘down below’, suggesting the end of a pleasure and beginning of a journey into the pains of HIV/AIDS. Omagu further supports the reality of this scourge with some newspaper cuttings built into her work, which discloses Nigeria’s alarming HIV/AIDS status.
  And if death through that dreaded disease is, arguably, avoidable, what of death as caused by ‘Poverty’, ‘Anger’, ‘Fear’ etc, as inscribed in another exhibit, And the Man Died Again?
Writers of history, its been observed, hardly resist temptation to tilt contents in their favours. Omagu, one of the leading female artists who, often times, make gender statements with their forms on canvas is at it again in Letter To You. Man’s expression of this emotional feeling called love for his woman hardly changes over the ages. He is so monotonous, but strangely, not boring to his woman, Omagu’s work suggests.
  This sketch piece of a couple matted on newspaper cutting has the artist explains that most often the man’s long list of broken promises to the woman he professes love remain constant. But where lies the mystery behind his charisma that magnetises her in spite of his inconsistency? Omagu’s work may spur one into this probe, but this is one chemistry science is yet to unrivalled.       
In This City is Still Under-construction, Omagu further minimises the concept as she takes a trip round the world of distress in this cluster of works. From despair in Africa as a result of failure of the elite class, and bleak future for the youths, to a visit to the hurricane Katrina in the US, the question of a safer world remains unanswered.   
The works, from both the context of art parlance and a common knowledge are truly minimal, but in the 22 pieces of Ogeyi’s mixed media are bolder statements.
A Fine Art graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and employee with the Department of Curatorial Service, National Gallery of Art, NGA, Abuja, Omagu was part of several group shows, including a all female show, Progressive, organised by Nigerian Association of Female Artists, NAFA held in in Port Harcourt.
She also added to her profile for being part of the exhibition at Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting, CHOGOM 2003 in Abuja, where she presented six works.
At this period, when understandably, galleries find it hard to remain in business under the canopies of art for art, one wondered if Minimalism stands a chance of expression outside a venue like the Goethe Institut which, coincidentally gave Omagu’ opportunity for her first solo exhibition, Expectation, in 1995.

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