By Tajudeen Sowole
As much as Lagos is gradually becoming the art hub of Africa, it is not exactly a smooth space to establish a signature, particularly for debutant artists.
On such a careful premise, Benin, Edo State- based artist, Edison Ekwueme who, few weeks ago made his major entry into Lagos art space was cautious. The cautious step was clear, so suggests his exhibition titled Tips of the Iceberg, organised by Purpleeva and held at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos.
A painting titled Varieties by Edison Ekwueme from Tips of the Iceberg
Ekwueme was not exactly new to the Lagos art space having had his works in few collections and group art exhibitions. But a solo exhibition, which is usually every artist's platform to project their work, came for Ekwueme at a time when new fresh names are making impacts in the art market.
"I have a lot to prove my worth, but just showing these for now," he states ahead of the opening of the exhibition. But in a broad thematic focus, most of the works rove over ladies' subjects. Some of such works include Varieties, Married to A Virgin, Sisi Eko, Sapomba Street and Radiating Humility.
With subtle cubism, Ekwueme's brush and palette knife render stylised figures that confirm the resilience of modernism.
In a fashion figure that depicts young girls' ambition to attain the so-called 'super model' status, Edison presents Lepa on Runway. The artist's Lepa is though not as skinny and fragile looking as some models who starve themselves for the sake of runway success, the work perhaps questions the worth of a fame acquired going through so much.
Ekwueme, like some artists, in recent times seems to have deep interest in women-related subjects. In Varieties, for example, the artist draws a line of fashion difference between women of the past three or more decades and those of the current generation. Today’s women, he argues “take better care of themselves.” Women are more fashionable now, he insists. “Even with aso ebi, you see ladies of today wear it in different designs compared to what it used to be in the past.”
The more the artist goes further into women subjects, the increase are the issues that may have him in collision with sociologists and anthropologists. Ekwueme picks a sensitive marital issue in a couple-portrait titled Married To A Virgin. Apparently not a happy couple from the mood of the composition, despite the position of capture, the portrait speaks so much about a fragile relationship. What exactly is wrong with the couple? Ekwueme blames the man for inconsistence after getting what he wanted. “It’s the story of a man who married an inexperienced virgin and had problems enjoying sex with her.” The artist wonders: why are people “insatiable after getting what they want?
Perhaps to show his respect and understanding of the sacrosanct state of marital life, a cheerful portraits titled The Two Shall Become One confirms that.
Still on the social scene, Ekwueme’s Sisi Eko is the elegant and jaiye-jaiye (enjoy life to the fullest) Lagos lady. As an art piece the work has the ebullience of creative attraction. But the thoughts of the artist on the the Lagos ladies appear stereotype. “Lagos girls see themselves as classical, more sophisticated than others,” he notes. And when he adds that “her nails and other make ups show that she is not hardworking.,” the artist forgets that Lagos girls are also known for ‘work hard, play hard.’
Between his OND from Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu and B.A acquired later at University of Benin, Edoo State, Ekwueme has learnt how to be a full artist by being a painter and sculptor. This much reflects in his painting of sculptural textures.
Despite his claim of “specializing in sculpture,” painting, he explains “is my dorm of expression.”
Ekwueme is a recipient and winner of 2000 edition of Winsor and Newton Painting Competition.