Saturday 20 July 2013

On 'Thy Roots', Iyase-Odozi's song for nature

By Tajudeen Sowole
As diverse and controversial as the contents of art that are populating gallery and other art spaces are, of recent,  particularly in the medium of installation, Princess Tessy Iyase-Odozi’s On Thy Roots We Stand still attempts to dig further into nature.

It’s an installation of a stopped-tree - given another life by the artist. And for rescuing the roots and trunk of the tree, nature gives back to Iyase Odozi an inspiration, from which the title of her second solo art exhibition comes. 

Princess Theresa Iyase-Odozi, working on her tree installation
Inside GreenHouse Art Gallery, Alagbole,, Ogun State where the exhibition was held for several months before it came down few days ago, the installation stands out so unique among other works of paintings, as usual with most installation. But when the artist interrupts her guest’s thought with “the tree is in its natural position ”, the concept attracts curiosity.

 Stripped of its barks and left bare, the tree, which, from the artist’s modification breeds other “trees” actually gives an impression of a sculpture. Being a passionate campaigner for green environment, Iysee had stopped the tree, among several others that were cut down when she moved into the plot of land. “It was like a spiritual calling”, she recalls telling the workers to spare the tree. “They did not understand why I wanted a tree to stand right in the middle of where a house would be built”. 

Explaining the spirituality of the ‘lucky tree' she says: “I decided to preserve the cuttings from the felled orange trees and transform them into works of Art on the same land”. The message of On Thy Roots We Stand, Iyase-Odozi discloses is that “although the other trees have been cut down, the roots lie buried deep in the ground and literally liveth on”.
Sharing her experience of creating art from the tree metaphor, she advices that people should learn “to accept what we cannot change; flow with Nature and its Beings; learn how beauty lies in all things around us; and that nothing is a waste, therefore, condemn nothing”.

For Iyasse-Odozi, a naturalist painter, the canvas is a fertile space to prepare people’s soul for the hereafter, suggests quite a number of paintings at the show. For example, melting the earthly with the heavenly, her brush strokes invoke the energy of a preacher on the pulpit. Not sure of what the hereafter looks like in physical interpretation, but she is convinced that “we all have a place we are heading after leaving this earth. So, why can’t we prepare for it right now”. 

In her debut solo show Arrival, at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos in 2009, the traces of her passion for spiritual realm and greenery  was noticed in works such as Holy Sword and Gatekeepers

On a larger scale of commitment to make the environment a better place, Iyase –Odozi also believes in empowerment for the youth.This much she started by taking her art out of the formal art gallery settings to the grassroots via schools, few years ago. And having found out that youth empowerment, imploring  the creative sector deserves full attention, she, with the “enormous support of her husband, Mr Victor Odozi set up the GreenHouse Empowerment Centre - an imposing  building -, from which the gallery is carved out.. She notes that just taking the GreenHouse traveling art programmes from one space to another inspired the  broader concept of a center.

At GreenHouse Center, a mini museum of ancient and contemporary art, art and craft workshops as well as facilities for other culture-related disciplines are available for youths within the Lanmbe and environs as well as others beyond who may want to use the facilities in excursion. 

Linking Arrival with On Thy Roots… she recalls how “I made a commitment to have another solo exhibition within three years”. But the GreenHouse project, she states stood between her and the commitment to have the second show within a target period. Having scaled through the hurdle of timing, came the contents challenge for the show.” To guide me, I began to prepare a checklist of what had to be done and establish priorities”.

Despite having a first solo not too far to tap from, she admits to the fact that the curatorial content brought some challenges “For creativity involves exploring new ideas, discovering new relationships and pushing the boundaries of possibilities” These combined, she explains, produced the theme, which  led to the “major installation work”.

Of recent, photography has been attractive to some artists, thereby using it to enhance or aid the execution of their works. For Iyase-Odozi, photography has always been a passion “Although I did not become a professional photographer, I was one of those who you would find snapping every scene”. She traces her photography passion to “over the past three decades taking  all sorts of shots”. Such snap shots included that of “ Bedford and Kombi {danfo} buses with various bizarre inscriptions,  market scenes, and above all, the clouds, which I often catch from an aeroplane in the sky”.

Iyase-Odoz’s bio states that she studied Creative Arts (Painting) at the University of Lagos, but started full time studio practice since 1984. After living in Germany for about 10 years and returned to Nigeria in 2002, she participated in several group exhibitions, both home and abroad..

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