By Tajudeen Sowole
On the Nigerian art landscape, Chike Onuorah a.k.a D'Artist has secured a path hardly frequent by many artists, so confirms his solo art exhibition titled Fireworks, which has been showing at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos for one week, and closing today.
With Fireworks, Onuorah, arguably, has stressed that, despite the challenges most artists face in staging regular exhibitions, he is among few consistent ones, who keeps the art appreciation and documentation circuit alive with a solo yearly in the last six years. More importantly, the content of every exhibition by Onuorah, also allude to the energy of creativity the artist invest in his outings.
One of Chike Onuorah’s works, A Journey of Life
And if documentation is pivotal to art appreciation as scholars always argue, regular art exhibition is apparently the fountain that waters art history. While the Internet, aided by digital imagery broadens the scope of art exhibition – bringing virtual art galleries and museums of contemporary art - the physical space of sharing artistic creation is still irreplaceable. In Onuorah’s art, historians have so much to chew, perhaps spit back at the artist to keep him on his toes as part of the challenge to sustain his opulent contents.
For example, Fireworks, a body of work that connects with the artist’s immediate past shows; offers an interesting subject in this era of artists’ penchant for identity via ‘branding’.
Onuorah describes Fireworks as “explosion of creativity”. Found in his past shows were styles he coined Splashillino and Plastillino, Several years after he introduced the ‘lino’ identity into his work, the mission appears to have generated incendiary expression in Fireworks.
Most of the works, which he discloses as recent, he explains “showcase the consolidation of my styles viz a viz time and experience”. Time, he notes, has taken a growth efect on his art, but giving in return “so much mileage that I have covered”. This much is noticed in works such as Journey of Life, Level Don Change, Amazon, Incredible Love and the title piece Firework seem to explain to guests inside the familiar terrain of Terra Kulture, where he has shown nearly oll his ‘lino’ styles in the last four years.
In The Journey Of Life, a painting that derives its analogy from the rough and beauty of struggle, in its physical context, the depth, from the artist’s ‘lino’ style offers a composite that rams into the psyche of a viewer, the message of the artist. And to highlight the message of the visual narrative in spoken words, Onuorah adds, poetry language: “Like the boats sailing in the sea / Swaying to the rhythm of the waves / Maintaining the course no matter what may be…” Quite motivational, he concludes: “Make a choice to stay alive / For this is the journey of life”.
The central theme of the exhibition derives its strength from the painting of the same title, a portraiture of an unidentified face, who seems to be reeling out warnings for a possible explosion. Not a violence kind really, but in the creative sphere. “Let the firework begin “….Perfect is the art, And the success therein”.
Having come this far, the artist warns that it can’t be over. “it’s a journey of a lifetime”.
In 2011, he had a show titled The Passion, in which he narrowed the gap between the medium and the message. Passion, he argues, “is the wing through which ideas fly to manifestation, the prerequisite for success and a potent force.” Passion and work are inseparable, in the artist’s ‘journey of life’, if indeed, a Firework of success is necessary. But, Onuorah appears to have been increasingly possessive of passion as if it’s some kind of strange or uncommon factor of life. “I love my work. I love being an artist. I always look forward to my next exhibition”. He explains how his passion for work “is the tonic that keeps me going”.
About four years after, Splashillino is the leading style in the Fireworks show, taking along the Plastillino series. For followers of the ‘lino’ family, it shouldn’t be difficult to track the styles and appreciate the art. “Whatever you make out of the works are what they mean, at least to you as the viewer”.
The lino family creation of Onuorah, which appeared in the public, perhaps for the first time six years ago include Crackilino, Splashillino, Plastillino and Grassillino.
|Amazon, a painting by Chike Onuorah|
From Onuorah’s Artist Statement: “It is that desire to conquer another possibility and create something else that just may never come into existence if I do not. This is my job, my hobby, my everything, my all. It is what I do and I'm loving it. I'm never in a hurry to let go of my works in a non- exhibition platform, hence I always have a repertoire waiting to be exhibited, not mentioning those reserved for retirement.
“Of course, my works are my gratuity and pension all in one. What can a man do? I have made my choice of a profession so I must find a way to navigate the waters in my route. I must find a way to side step a few landmines that have blown up some of my predecessors. Thank God for his grace. It's all good and I'm still loving it.
“The power of the mind can conquer anything. Just believe. Get up and work it. Just believe. This is a universal principle. It works for me. Should work for anyone who believes and lives it. Talk time is in the twilight”.
Last year Onuorah showed Full Moon at Terra Kulture and asserted prolific authority on the art exhibition turf, consistently, since 2007.