Saturday 16 March 2013

'Beyond Bound'… Ofodile-Okanume’s convergence across periods

By Tajudeen Sowole
Chinyere Ofodile-Okanume may have expanded the scope of her art, but delving into the avant-garde, the artist’s emerging period still derives energy from her proficiency as a painter.

Ofodile-Okanume’s new form and technique, which could culminate into another period of her art, opens as Beyond Bound on March 23 to Aril 5, 2013 at the National Museum Onikan, Lagos. Clearly, the exhibition may also have much of the artist’s painting skill get less attention. 

Ofodile-Okanume’s Beyond Bound asserts the artist’s incendiary skill, a balance of new forms and styles with an identity, yet it radiates aesthetic aura.

With the new body of work, she is stepping into another period of her art, coming as she does from the traditional form of painting on canvas and leaping into broader abstract impressionism. However, the traditional art form of oil or acrylic on canvas in this show combines very well to form contemporaneity of the artist’s focus.

Some of the works, such as the Irony Of Life Series, I Better Pass My Neighbour, Journey Of Life, Empowerment, Friendship, Togetherness, I did not do it and Last Scarifies explain the artist’s new resplendence in creating timeless art. In Irony Of Life-1, Ofodile-Okanume elevates the value of stones, using spot-like impressionism technique to extract a definite art form. The composite engages the viewer as the background of subtleness adds strength to the spotty impression, offering an optical-reflective attraction to the glory of the refined stones.

From Irony Of Life-I comes her thought about moods, “celebration, happiness and merriment.” Still in the same technique, she also brings the other side of joy in Irony Of Life-II, noting that it’s not some people’s “wish to be unhappy, but a reality of life”.
One of Chinyere Ofodile-Okanume’s work, Irony of Life.
To stress a conscious and steady gravitation into a new realm of her career, another work, I Better Pass My Neighbour offers diverse application of stone, which exudes patterned-aesthetics, though devoid of brightness, but faintly vibrant in its burnt effect. It’s Ofodile-Okanume’s visual narrative in a deliberate inconsistence and imbalance, depicting Nigeria’s electricity challenges which appears to have no solution in sight. Despite a recent so-called ‘improvement in power’ that only exists in government’s propaganda machinery – during rainy seasons when the rise in water tide energises the hydro-electricity generation system – the mini electricity generator, from which Ofodile-Okanume derives one of her titles, I Better Pass My Neighbour is on the increase across the country.

For the artist, the issue is not really about the ‘increase in mega watts’, but about the reality of a government agency, Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), that is not working, yet milking the people via exorbitant tariffs (known as crazy bills).
The artist stated: “Some areas have been in darkness for years, so I depict low current with the grey stones; full current with white stones.” She was however quick to add that full current areas “are not common, which brings about the rise of generators everywhere. Virtually every family has a generator; its now a necessity”. In fact, the situation excludes no class type, as she added, “The big black tones depict generators of the rich people”.

From love to caution and danger as well as other sensitive forms of expression, red keeps maintaining its symbolic place. Ofodile-Okanume draws from the sensitivity attached to the red colour using roses metaphor to remind the people of the low and high in man’s sojourn on earth. She titles the piece Journey Of Life, but drags in “black roses” to support the other side of the earthly sojourn, noting that as bad or sorrowful they may be, such occurrences cannot be omitted from one’s life.

Quite instructive is Journey Of Life – either from the aesthetic or philosophical perspective – the red roses’ stain, used creatively, with a line of black, speaks volume in terms of spirituality. Black roses do not exist, but in literary or fictitious and creative realm, the artist gets away with her assertion that “the black rose represents the unpleasant journey” of life.

As this and other works represent the artist’s new focus, there appears a central point in two or more of the exhibits. It’s a convergence of the entire display, which comes in works such as Empowerment and others that appear to bring the artist’s past forms into current experimentation, and perhaps a projection into the future shape of her art. For example, Empowerment brings representational, figurative of women into a collage of fabrics and native woven-mat. Complementing the communicative strength of collage is the artist’s message about stepping out of bound, which resonates in the activities of women. The artist stressed, “A lot of youth are still waiting to be employed, which is not forthcoming, so they need to be empowered into self-employment; the youths are the leaders of tomorrow”.
 Chinyere Ofodile-Okanume

This is Ofodile-Okanume’s solo show after seven years absence. She has re-energised her art with a new theme, the value in the dignity of labour and womanhood for which she should be commended. In a Nigerian art scene where managing family and a career in art successfully is seen as a huge task or miracle, Ofodile-Okanume’s Beyond Bound stresses the argument in favour of woman as a crucial and creative partner in the thumb-nailing, designing and building of the home.

Ofodile-Okanume had her last solo art exhibition titled Pattern of Life in 2006; it was her debut in the Biola Akinsola-led All Female Art Exhibition' titled Women In Visual Arts (WIVA) Perspective in 2008, at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos. She also exhibited with four other women in Rekindling the Nigerian Hope at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos in 2008.

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