By Tajudeen Sowole
Inspired by ancient aesthetics, designer, Victor Ehikhamenor, steps into a new period of his art as he creates contemporary images, which thematically, focuses faces within the analogy of identity.
Currently showing at Temple Muse, Victoria Island, Lagos, Ehikhamenor’s new body of work titled Amusing the Muse also confirms that artists who are doing new things are frantically searching for a fresh outlets of presenting their art, particularly for themes or aesthetics that fall into the category of what is known as site-specific in contemporary art lexicon. For Ehikhamenor, the quiet design and cutting edge store, Temple Muse “fits perfectly into my ideal space.”
Amusing the Muse derives its strength from the artist’s new technique, Paintforation. Though a coinage from painting, it appears quite a curious one, particularly from Ehikhamenor who is hardly a painter, in the real context of creating art, the relief feel of the works suggests how the artist’s skill keeps blurring the line between art and design. Adapting the process of pointillism in a perforating method on a paper appears very innovative and also challenging, as the technique requires “painstaking efforts to protect the fragile surface.”
One of Victor Ehikhamenor’s works, Adam and Eve, Waiting For A Flight Out of Eden
However, the aesthetics of pieces such as White Mask and I don’t Know Where To, But Let’s Go seems to assert that, indeed, the artist’s Painterforation is worth the experiment. Even in its monochromatic surface, Ehikhamenor’s new technique in design, which generates a sea of points or perforations, brings back pre-modernity rendition into contemporary space.
Of the about 18 or 19 works, the new techniques dominate the show, leaving few spaces to his familiar drawings. What is new about the drawing is that some of them are in large sizes as well as in deeper conceptual contents. This much a monochromatic piece titled, Adam and Eve, Waiting For A Flight Out of Eden, which spreads across nearly two ends of the walls, offers.
Ehikhamenor’s Biblical depiction takes a viewer’s much of attention into the designs, which attempts to create some velvet-surface effect, deep into the artist’s seas of pen and ink movements.
Largely of conservative colours, Ehikhamenor’s new body of work have a partner in the Temple Muse’s space, softening the radiation of a thickened atmosphere of Victoria Island’s chaotic central business district. He recalled that his search for space that share something in common with his art came to fruition after his first visit to Temple Muse. “The moment I set my eyes on this space, I have not slept; I kept working and getting new idea,” Ehikhamenor enthused.
On faces as a central theme, he recalled how the mammoth crowd during the Occupy Nigeria protests inspired his thoughts on the importance of people’s faces in identity. “People live; do every thing, and are recongnised even after death by their face.”
And what a space to relish for the artist’s Paintforation; choice designs such as Tiffany Amber, Givenchy as well as some indigenous labels breath elegance into the architectural innovation of the interior.
“With this show, we hope to bring a different aesthetic, to complement the varieties of designs here,” the managing director of Temple Muse, Avinash Wadhwani, stated. Promoting indigenous creativity as evidenced in the fashion collections such as Tiffany Amber and other local designers’ in the space, he said, “is the goal of Temple Muse”.
The curator of Amusing the Muse, Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, described the artist’s calligraphic style of monochrome as “symbolic”.
Obiago noted that the images emanate from his background as a boy growing up in the rural setting of Edo State. “His style is influenced by the drawings he grew up with on the walls of sacred spaces in Udomi-Uwessan, Edo State, Nigeria.”
In 2011, at Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos Ehikhamenor’s solo show, Entrances and Exits: In Search of Not Forgetting added another form of native content to the Nigerian art vocabulary. The works tap from the relics of ancestral polygamous family, rediscovered as part of what he claimed “shaped his art over the decades”.
Last year, he extended his thoughts on identity to the foreign art space when he showed at a yearly art and culture festival in Greece, where he featured photos of rural people and western clothing.
After his studies and working experience in the US, Ehikhamenor returned to Nigeria and shared his design skills as art director of the rested 234Next newspapers. His experience as an independent book cover designs of many years was an asset he brought into the creative section of the newspaper.
Some of his solo exhibitions abroad are Beyond The Surface, at Utopia Gallery, Washington, DC and Spirits In Dialogue, the Brazilian-American Cultural Institute Gallery, Washington, DC both held in 2000.
He graduated from Bendel State University, Ekpoma (now Ambrose Alli University) with a BA degree in English and Literary Studies. He also holds an Msc in Technology Management and Masters of Fine Art (MFA) from University of Maryland, College Park in the USA.