Sunday 29 September 2013

Observation… Ogwo’s palette goes motivational

By Tajudeen Sowole
Painter, Emenike Ogwo’s new body of work titled Observation, just exhibited at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos adds visual narrative to the expanding ‘industry’ of motivational literary works. 

Emenike Ogwo’s Yaba Market

In fact, Ogwo’s Observation may just be an alternative to lovers of motivational books who are bored with the repetitive themes within which most writers and speakers on the subject are confined. With 36 paintings, including his familiar impasto=style textured canvas and acrylic on paper, Ogwo delves into the familiar issue of man’s power of observation, stressing the abundance of nature in every given state of the environment.

An impressionist whose palette makes no pretext about deliberately engaging a viewer of his work in visibility test, Ogwo’s choice of Observation, as the theme of the show, indeed, complement his technique: there is a thin line between the ability to understand the composite of images on his canvas and having a great sense of observation. And bringing such combination into his thoughts about the environment and hidden opportunity, stresses a strong intellectuality imbedded in the artist’s approach to motivational theme.

From Lagos to Owerri and the northern part of the country, Ogwo’s palette perches on the peculiarity of each city and suggests how opportunities are hidden, but only those with keen Observation make the best of the situations. In one of the textured works titled Yaba Market {oil on canvas, 2013}, for example, the foreground and the depth appears almost similar in thickness of activities. But somewhere in the seemingly lack of easy ways to navigate, a fortune could just be waiting to be uncovered.  “Someone might find a fortune, after making a good observation from the distance”, Ogwo explains to his guest few days before the end of the exhibition. 
He notes that as people become less observant, they see “less opportunity”. Perhaps, the environment is becoming less interesting, so is the decline in people’s sense of observation. “There is nothing created by God that is not good,” Ogwo argues. Even with man’s devastating of the earth, nature’s resilience, he insists, is still strong enough to create sustenance for those who have the ability to see hidden opportunity. “Opportunity exists where we chose to find it”.

 Aside the motivational tone of the artist’s visual narratives imbedded in the body of work, also highlighted is the human pressure on the environment. Having consistently focused the urban Lagos in his past art exhibitions, the artist’s highlight of the Lagos environmental and human challenges continues in Observation. Among such works are Makoko Settlement, Lagos island Market and keke Marwa. Captured on a typical Lagos road are two tricycles known in the local parlance as keke. Quite interesting in the painting is the seemingly orderliness and calmness on the road, devoid of commercial motorcycles known as Okada. It should be recalled that almost a year ago, Lagos state Government started restricting Okada operations to inner roads of the state. As relatively fragile as the restrictions look  – few commercial motor cyclists are still defiantly still on the roads – the Kekes are filling the space of the motorcycles. Like some skeptical few, Ogwo questions the good intention of the Babatunde Fashola led-government. “In Victoria Island, for example, okada used to be our taxi. Now that there is no okada, and taxi cabs are not available, is government forcing us to exercise our body?” But the artist’s work seems to have provided the answer as regards government’s intention: it shows an environment devoid of uncontrollable and dangerous transport workers that ‘were responsible’ for hundreds of deaths and injuries every year by okada.

More interesting, Keke appears to have also replaced the molue theme, which used to dominate Nigerian artists’ canvas.  Quite a number of artists, recently, have been exploring the tricycle themes, such that the demise of molue may not be “missed” after all. With the coming of Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) – from 2006 and formerly launched in 2007 – some artists have jokingly stated that “we will miss molue o”.

Between Ogwo’s thickened canvas of oil and his softer surface of acrylic on paper,  there comes the struggle to bond the two with a dual-dimensional illusory effect. To an extent, the impasto canvas has the relief effect, but the paper work, he argues is not far from achieving the same effect. Largely covered in dripping of acrylic, the drip effect, he says, is intended “to create a non -lattened surface”.

And as the central theme suggests, it probably takes a pass mark in observatory test to see the optical effect of the paper works such as Hope, Breastfeeding Mother, Fulani Men, Mother of Two and The Journey,

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