By Tajudeen Sowole
When painter, Emenike Ogwo opens his fifth solo art exhibition titled Impasto at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, from September 8 to 13, 2012, he would be making a statement that the responsibility of every individual transcends personal glory
In his 16 years of practice, Ogwo has shown that commitment or passion of every artist in setting identity is the real scale on which valuation is placed. Stressing the scale is his consistency in the highly textured form known as Impasto.
It is therefore not surprising that his choice of theme for his current solo exhibition is a tribute to Impasto.
Impasto (a word borrowed from Italian) is an art term that describes thick or layered and textured paint on a surface, creating a relief or dimensional illusion.
Having established an identity of visual rendition, expressing impressionism with impasto for a coalescence of art interpretations over the years, Ogwo’s next exhibition takes a leap into the realm of an artist’s privileged responsiveness to the challenges of his environment.
As he took his guest through some of the works inside his studio in Ajah, Lagos, it occurred to the visitor that the content – his thoughts on each work and the inspiration behind them – is like a huge contrast to the central theme, Impasto. What has Impasto got to do with it? “It’s about the qualities within the reach of every soul, which is the foundation of one’s spiritual life,” he disclosed.
In about 40 works or more, the artist touches on the crucial social economic challenges in Nigeria.
The slipping grip of leadership on the nation’s decadence in nearly all strata of endavour is summarised by Ogwo in the work Good Shepherd. This work brings to fore the argument about guidance. Despite the composite, which places the cattleman in the centre of his flocks, and not necessarily in front, the animals are orderly – filing after the leader. The analogy in Good Shepherd increases concern about the usual misunderstanding between the leaders and the people, hence the bane of underdevelopment, whereas, common cattle takes orderliness for granted.
Still on Nigeria’s under-development, Ogwo’s palette knife takes you through the aerial view of sea of cars at the Marina, Lagos car park in the work titled Tokunbo Dumping Ground. Usually this car park offers an exciting view for motorists and other users of the road who journey through the Marina-Apongbon link bridge. The artist’s choice of title for the work may be contentious, given the fact that these cars, supposedly belonging to those working in these corporate offices and banks lined up along the Marina, a sector of the Nigerian economy that hardly patronises Tokunbo (used imported) cars. However, it could also be argued that if new cars, according to sources, form less than 10 percent of imported cars into Nigeria, the bulk of the cars we see at the Marina car park are, perhaps, ‘higher grade’ Tokunbo cars.
The responsibility of being privileged to use art in promoting change, indeed, makes this work an indictment on the leadership of a country such as Nigeria, which has surrendered to Tokunbo cars, when in actual fact 160 million people are enough assets to attract investors into the local automobile industry.
Ogwo’s visual commentary, like most artists’, must go on even though the targeted political and policymaker elites would always pretend not to see art as a veritable medium for development.
Perhaps the decadence in society, from the artist’s perspective, could be linked to improper upbringing of children. He argued: “Basically, every child has the right to life and be allowed to survive and develop; should receive compulsory basic education and equal opportunity for higher education depending on individual ability; entitled to good health, proper medical attention for survival, personal growth and development.”
However, the complexity of leadership and the need to survive – courtesy of the people being led – keep searching for refuge or a cover. This much is epitomised in the commercial motorcycle (okada) mentality as a means of transport in most big cities across Nigeria. Ogwo stresses the okada irritant when he exclaims with a title Lagos No Go Spoil Okada! Okada!! Okada!!!
Ogwo has employed his art to stand up against lack of value and orderliness, which are responsibilities of every Nigerian. The okada menace is a typical sign in the loss of value. Most worrisome is the unfolding situation where all the unwanted commercial motorcyclists from other states come to Lagos.
Some other works such as
The Return, The Race of Life, Survival of the Fittest, also glorify the colourful cultural aspects of Nigeria like the Argungu Festival, in Kebbi State.
Releasing his prowess in impasto, works like Portrait of A Girl, Innocence, Child Right. Another 1004? Any Hope for the New and Oshodi, makes one’s view caught between what can be described as the more you look, the more you sees, within the impressionism style of Ogwo.
Having gained distinct flair in art at Federal School of Art & Science, Aba, Abia State in 1989, a seed of prowess was sowed. And from his post academic career after graduating at Auchi Polytechnic, in 1994 till date, Ogwo’s signature has, sub-consciously, stuck to the privileged of being noticed in the crowd.