By Tajudeen Sowole
From the notion that nature has two sides of a story, artist, Issac Eamokpae gets inspiration to render visual interpretation of man and the environment.
Titled Duality, and currently showing till April ending, at the Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos, Emokpae's works, which include painting and drawing implore human and environment factors in expressing his thoughts on two sides of nature.
In figural drawing of almost infinite lines as well as painting style that simplifies representational images, Emokpae brings his thoughts about nature into visual context. Also, in plants, the artist brings in a seasons of the year as analogy to stress nature’s duality of the environment.
One of the Monad Series, from Isaac Emokpae’s Duality
He breaks the work into Monad and Autumn Series, applying spirituality of creation via what looks like a probe into philosophy. Some of the works such as Overexposed, Confidant, Harmony, Friends and Yellow Day – under the Monad series – dwels on the complexity of man’s being and relationships as the artist draws inspiration from some great philosophers such as Liebniz. Descartes and Santayana. In most of the images, the twin or double factor, perhaps in protozoan, is pronounced.
For the Autumn Series, the landscape of plants - like the weather that is alien to the artist’s environment - are also expressed in the duality context, perhaps drawing a complex tropical similarity between wet and dry season. However, the two sides to nature, which Emokpae highlights is not lost. The real lesson here is about life and death. “Plants grow and die,” just as new ones come with change in nature.
He argued that “forms represent the semi tangible container that we call the soul, and the colours are expressive of the various emotions that we all encounter in our everyday relationships.”
The artist’s Duality thoughts is part of the lessons he acquired from his late father, sculptor, Erhabour Emokpae (1934-1984), “As a second generation artist of the family, I can’t separate my philosophy from my father’s.” He recalled that his father “believed in duality of life; there can’t be one side to something, either good or bad.”
The artist’s leaning towards scientific themes is not accidental. He grew up as a science student and ended up studying medicine at the University of Ibadan
Subconsciously playing out the duality, but subtly, Emokpae is a painter and photographer. In fact, he has been more of a photographer since he dropped science for the art. Few months back, he had shown a body of photograph in a solo exhibition at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Trained as a painter under the famous Abayomi Barber School, Emokpae has however been more pronounced in photography, working in the branding and advertising industry. But his Duality strokes and shades imply that painting has not left the artist behind. His teacher, Barber must have been impressed when he notes in the catalogue of Duality, the artist's "audacity of compositions, the vivacity and the fertility of his imagination,” which “all go to show that he has personal vision.”
During the preview of Duality, the curator Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago noted that Emokpae’s application of color “is mature.” She added that the artist’s poetry flavour is “wrapped around a myriad of humanoid shapes with large heads and playful features.” Mbanefo-Obiago whose curatorial credits at The Wheatbaker included works of artsists such as Nnenna Okore, Duke Asidere, and photographers Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko, and recently, Lakin Ogunbanwo added: “His work exists on a spectrum ranging from cartoon simplicity to opaque expressionism.“
So far, The Wheatbaker, as a space that supports the promotion of art has maintained a camaraderie of sponsors such as Deutsche Bank described as having the largest art collection in the global banking industry and works with international museums and fairs; and Ruinart, the oldest established Champagne house, supporting global art events such as Art Basel Hong Kong and Miami and PAD Paris and London.
As a photographer, Emokpae (b. 1976) has worked for clients such as rested 234 NEXT newspaper, Tiffany Amber, Elan, AD Consulting and several Nigeria’s leading advertising agencies. He is a recipients of the UNESCO "Save our Treasures" art competition in Troyes, France (1996) and the Hasselblad Masters (Semi Finalist Award) for Photography in 2007.
Emokpae’s group Exhibitions included Peace on Earth (save our earth), Ilorin (1990), Exchange of our treasures, UNESCO, France, (1997), CCIC/VI Artists, DIDI Museum, Lagos (2000), Abayomi Barber Honorary Exhibition, University of Lagos (2002), Reconstruction in Reverse, Omenka Gallery, Lagos, (2010) Solo Exhibitions: Genesis (2005) & Body Only (2014), Terra Kulture, Lagos.
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