Saturday 20 July 2013

Return of Isiuwe-couple for the sake of Human and Equestrian Life

By Tajudeen Sowole
 About ten years after their last art exhibition together, couple artists Emmanuel and Angela Isiuwe are back on the Lagos art turf with a joint effort titled Our World, Human and Equestrian Life, holding at Didi Museum, Victorian Island, Lagos from tomorrow Saturday, ending Monday, July 27, 2013.  
Central to the title of the exhibition is Emmanuel’s long time passion for horses. For Angela, it’s also a continuation of her interpretive lines, dragging viewers of her work into a higher intellectuality of art appreciation.
With the Durbar and other equestrian themes that have been stressed on the Lagos art exhibition circuits, what else could be new or of interest painting horses? Horses, Emmanuel seems to be saying should be appreciated beyond using them for festivals or other common usage   “it’s about the relationship of man with horses,” Emmanuel explains. He argues that “nearly all the inventions of man are inspired by horse”. Noting that, it’s not coincidence, for example that some machines are decimated or classified, based on strength, in ‘horsepower.  
In the Nigerian art scene that is gradually taking ‘contemporary ‘ contents more seriously, specialization or focus on being a master in specific areas, is often labeled as ‘repetitive themes’. Emmanuel is perhaps, one of the artists who disagree with the notion of repetitive themes. The longer, the masterly, so suggest some of his works. In fact, he boasts that he has “been paining horses since 1993”.
In Our World, Human and Equestrian Life, one of the works titled Ghost Mode explains the attachment some people have to their horses. Emmanuel goes into the spiritual realm to bring a horse owner’s agony of losing his much cherished animal to the jaws of death.  The myth of ghost, he argues, is not just in humans, but across animals in general. 
Viewed in soft copies, Emmanuel’s rendition of horses on canvas affords an opportunity to take another look at how nature creates diverse species of animals in one breed. Spotted among other horses in Guardian Angel, for example, is a white horse, supposedly of the stallion family. But there is more to it, Emmanuel explains, recalling that the capture is a reenactment of loose horses moving in Lagos, and may be “guarded by an angel horse”. Extra terrestrial support, he insists, is the only explanation he could arrive at seeing such “a distinct white horse among the stray and un-kept horses in Lagos”. 
Quite of documentation value is Emmanuel’s Guardian Angel: loose horses were common site in Lagos and Victoria Islands until the Lagos State Government’s new laws on stray animals enacted last year, which empowers authority to prosecutes owners. What is however an alteration, which could be deceptive about Guardian Angel is the forest in the background – not exactly representative of a highly urban Lagos. 
Angela’s strokes of brushes, largely in outlines forms are not exactly unfamiliar. She had shown in Biola Akinsola-led all women exhibition Naija Woman, the Creative Touch and several other group exhibitions.
 Between then and now, Angela has been “more elaborate”. The main difference, she discloses is the incursion from her fashion design background. This much she expresses in quite a number of fashion-related pieces, particularly, a monochrome piece titled Head Form, in subtle representation of the Niger Delta identity of western bowler hat, baggy shirt and native wrapper.  
Of nostalgic, for Angela, is the walking stick, which she argues, “completes the symbol of authority, seeing my father in the attire, for example”. But Head Form could have been mistaken for just another depiction from the west; Niger Delta borrowed western hat alone is too foreign to stand on its own without the other native paraphernalia.  
About ten years after their last show together, there has been indeed a long break. And that quite a lot of changes have taken place on the Lagos art scene, during this period, do not shut the Isiuwe couple’s art out of relevance, Angela assures. “Having taken a break for so long has its advantage; a bit of hunger brings more patronage”.
While so much of experimentation is now common among artists to join the contemporary train as fast as possible, Emanuel insists that there are still so much yet untapped areas of the canvas. “Nigerian artists have yet to explore the canvas enough”.
Part of Emmanuel’s bio reads: his works have made impressions locally and internationally. He has a style which has endeared him to many lovers of works of art worldwide. Emmanuel’s work has featured in many exhibitions in Nigeria, Benin Republic and the U.S.      

For Angela Lagos and Abuja as well as several cities in Africa, Europe and  the U.S. have her paintings adorn Hotels, Offices and Homes. Angela renders her paintings in evocative swift lines. She is married with five children.

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