For Edochie, Blue Rider is a retrospect
By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published on May 16, 2008)
In paintings, objects, audio and installation, artist, Uche Edochie takes the art gallery scene through about 20 years of his career, for a show he described “my autobiography."
It's the artist's seventh solo exhibition titled, Blue Rider, which opened yesterday, Saturday May 17, ending May 26, 2008 at AFA Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos. It showcases works of an artist who, having set out with strong realism of exceptional gift, brought that background into abstract expressionism.
As he took one of his guests, during preview, through three works, one of the artist's very early exhibitions, Soul Stirring, held at the Didi Museum in 1999, refreshed one’s memory. Between that period and now, Edochie though had matured in concepts and contents, yet something suggested that he is one of those artists whose strokes of yesterday were ahead of that time.
And when he said "you are so attached to a particular skill, commended for it over the years, you find the need to want to bring that into another level," it was obvious that those skills were being built for a period like this.
One the three works presented during the preview, Keep Your Head Up, best makes the link between the artist's past and today, both in aesthetics and themes. An abstraction in a cubic style, the story is centred on the top of the canvas at a very limited space. Buried behind this sea of cubic shapes is an impression of the eyes, a concept, Edochie said emerged from his actor father, Pete Edochie’s advice. "My father always believe that 'the world is yours, don’t limit yourself. Go out there and do it' he would encourage you."
Another work, a more visible representation, combined abstraction and figural, also explained the artist’s peculiar conceptuality. Placed in the strokes of rowdiness, Dear Mother How Were You Ever So Calm Amidst the Storm? depicted a contrast to this chaotic setting as the face of a woman, strangely, remained very unruffled.
As a concept, this work, he explained, interpreted a part of his life while growing up. Her mother, as a wife and mother often keep her cool in spite of the "pressures, sometimes provocation, both from the children and the husband."
Blue Rider, which has been described, in one of the statements written for the exhibition as "melancholic, reflective, celebratory, triumphant moments in the first two decades of the artist’s life," is, in the opinion of Edochie, an expression of his introvert nature.
"Blue Rider came about as a concept because some of these experiences are not so pleasant. While the blue depicts the mood, the unpleasantness leading to being introvert, the bond of relationship as a member of a family, friends, lovers, as people and a nation also exist," he said.
Seven solo exhibitions for an artist who is barely ten years old in postgraduate practice, appears like a move towards the prolific ladder. He responded modestly, noting that his tutelage at University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) cannot be separated from his constant showings. "As a student at Nsukka, I was the fastest painter among my peers because I don’t set out on canvas if I do not have my concept worked out completely."