Saturday 14 January 2012

UCHE NWOSU (2011 / 2012)

Celebrating faith, tourism in Shadows, Mountain and Valley
 By Tajudeen Sowole

 In the recently held solo exhibition, Uche Nwosu appeared to have stepped up his attachment to surrealism expressed via the employment of the native Igbo art form, Uli.

 TAGGED Shadows, Mountain and Valley, the show held at Aina Onabolu Building, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, was Uche Nwosu’s latest experiment with new ideas.

  Despite the presentation of the works inside a non-art gallery hall, the aggressiveness of Nwosu’s brush movements on canvas was enhanced by the natural light, which radiated multidimensional aura.

  However, the display explored a wide range of issues, among which faith/religiosity was seen to be dominant. Nwosu declared: “What I am exploring is the subtle interface between religion and tours,” noting that religion “births tours and tourism imports/exports alien religious creeds. It’s also on how religious tours fleece the community coffers, and more.”

 He was quick to caution that his work is “not challenging anything,” but a reflective-concept of raising “our national consciousness.” 
Sacrifice, oil on canvas, by Nwosu
    In search of spiritual as well as technological advancement, Nigeria, Nwosu argued, is stranded. “We hope to survive the post-modern surge of oriental technological re-colonisation. Yesterday, it was the West, today it is the East, and we are about to be sandwiched between them like mashed potatoes: nowhere to hide.” 

 For example, in one of the works, Ekpo Itiaba: Doctrine Law, the artist interrogates the imbalance between the elite and the larger society, noting that the few privileged ones make laws that only protect themselves, while “indoctrinating the less-privileged with religion.”  

  In the installation, Hangmen, Nwosu also drew two tragic situations from the Biblical as well as literary perspective to support his thoughts on the complexity of fate and faith. “Judas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, hung himself out of pride, but Okonkwo of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, also hung himself; a hero.”

  And in another work that presents the symbols of the three monotheist faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Nwosu appeared to be propagating the notion that these three faiths are from Abraham, renowned in the theology circle as the Father of faithful.

  He also argued that other faiths outside these three have the right to exist as explained in a depiction of one of the Oriental religions, Worship Ii (Jainism). He noted: “it represents self-denial and non-violence, since founded in India in the 6th Century BCE by the wealthy Indian prince, Nataputa Vardharmana.”

  The choice of theme, the artist, who is recuperating from a battle with stroke, disclosed, was motivated by his “faith in tomorrow, love of atmosphere and search for the Ultimate Truth.”.

 To him, artistic delivery has become a medium with which to fight what he described as “forces of re-colonization,” while at the same time extending love to “orphan, widow and vulnerable children.” 

  Despite his current state of health, Nwosu is happy that his creative spirit has been strengthened by the support of his admirers who believe in him. One of them is the Director-General of National Gallery of Art (NGA), Abdullahi Muku, who wrote the foreword to the catalogue of the exhibition.

  According to Muku, the artist, in recent years, through his delivery, has continued to stimulate public discourse on the state of man on earth such as the issue of environment, culture and nationhood. 

   Muku explained that NGA has shown interest in the show due to its significance on religion and tours. He argued that the body of work “is sure to enlarge the pool of our collective resources for the operators of slick religion, dull tours and other concerned observers.”
One of Uche Nwosu's work

  NWOSU is a founding member of the Arts Writers Organisation of Nigeria (AWON) and a regular contributor to debates on the Arts, before he succumbed to stroke a few years ago.

  Although, the health challenge appeared to have cut him off his art and other activities in recent time, the exhibition depicted his deep attachment, spiritually, to creative calling.

 He studied Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) between 1986 and 1991. He later worked, at different time, as a visualizer-in-training (ITF), journalist, print operations manager, and desktop publishing instructor at Lintas Advertising, Lagos. His hobby includes reading, writing, walking and researching.

  Aside participating in several group exhibitions in Nsukka, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Lagos, London and Germany, he has had two memorable solo exhibitions in the intervening years including Fleeting Essence, his debut solo outing at National Museum, Lagos in 1996.

  Though his last solo, Together But Separate, was in 2003, the artist, however, has been active on the visual art scene. For example, just last year, his work featured in the 2010 edition of the yearly October Rain exhibition, organised by the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Lagos State chapter and Water Colour, Pastel & Drawing at Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos.

  Some of his research and curatorial engagements include serving as: coordinator, Uche Okeke 70th Birthday Anniversary Retrospective Exhibition and other activities, 2003; visitor to Manifesta 4, European Biennale of Contemporary Art, Frankfurt/Main, Germany 2002; member of the Visitor Programme to Documenta 11 in Kassel, and Cultural and Educational Institutions in Kassel, Frankfurt and Berlin, Germany, 2002; Assistant to the Coordinator, Platform 4Documenta 11, International Conference (Under Siege: Four African Cities Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos), Goethe Institut, Lagos, Nigeria, 2002; Research Assistant, the Short Century (Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-94), Museum Villastuck, Munich, Germany, 2000; and  Associate Research Curator, Lagos Section of Century City, Tate Modern, London, England.

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