By Tajudeen Sowole
Shades of behavioural patterns that reshape the society attract painter, Wande George's brush strokes in a body of work that represents the good and the ugly of changing values.
|Tears For Our Girls by Wande George|
George's critique of his environment is expressed in covert concept, but tiled Naked Truth, and is showing from August 16 to 26, 2014 at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.
As much as the artist attempts to expose the declining values and highlight few hopes, his smooth brush movement on canvas struggles to capture a society's slippery demeanor where nothing else matters, except the temporary excitement of individuals’ immediate gains.
And as the 30 wall pieces include all the styles and techniques that George is known for, it does appear that he is unleashing so much energy onto the mainstream art scene after escaping from two decades of confinement in ad agency studios. The Truth and Naked exhibition is the artist's first solo after quitting the advertising industry as a brand artist, two years ago. In 2012, George had a joint with fellow ad man, Kola Arifajogun in the show titled Re-emergence, in which the two artists announced their return to the mainstream art scene.
From the slim figures that explain some of his conceptual themes to the more representational images and portraits that chronicle his thoughts about changes in the society, George condenses his oeuvre into an eclectic gathering. He says the exhibition is about the reality "that stares us in the face every day." And the "truth" as glaring as he argues its existence, even gets "documented" by the people, but "is hardly discussed."
In works such as Desperate Men, a five figure of men walking in oppose directions; and Deceit (The Seat), a vacant chair in a lonely space, George explains his thoughts on a society increasingly breeding people of little or no integrity.
And perhaps, the young generation would rescue the declining values. Not so, says another work titled Generation X, a figure bewitched in the age of info tech. The vast opportunity provided by the Internet and info tech-related devises, George notes, is not being used by many, particularly the Younger generation to improve the society. So much energy, he says, is being spent "on non-intellectual things via the social media." And the results; "today's generation are still not properly informed about issues around them."
In a satirical portrait, East and West, representing two major faiths in Nigeria - Islam and Christianity - George chides religious leaders and their cohorts, the political class for what he describes as "unnecessary religious rivalry among Nigerians." Quite a glaring fact though, but the artist's "West," as representing Christianity appears incorrect or perhaps contemporary. Christianity, like Islam originated from the Middle East. Perhaps, “West” in George’s argument represents the political and enterprise characteristics brought into Christianity by countries such as Britain and the U.S. It might of interest for George to note that a school of thought believes that the gospel emerged as a source of spirituality from the Middle East, turned into a weapon of political rivalry in Europe and became an enterprise in the hands of the Americans.
Still on religion, In God's Name, a preacher in naira notes patterned garment stresses the artist's thought on the failure of faiths. "Every corner, there are churches on Sundays; it's not about salvation, but materialism."
Quite a number of issues, including faith-related, appear to have energised security concern and worries around the world. Simply titled Security, an unidentified figure sitting on a globe fitted with ticking time bomb raises alarm about a world on the edge.
Still on security issue, the Boko Haram insurgency and the kidnapped schoolgirls come into the radar of George. The meeting of President Goodluck Jonathan with parents of some of the Boko Haram-abducted Chibok schoolgirls and the N100 million Naira, which the presidency allegedly gave to the families would not stop the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign. In George's contribution to keep the campaign alive comes a portrait Tears For Our Girls, of an unidentified girl in moderate hijab scarf. "It's so sad that we still can't recue these girls after over 100 days, " George laments.
Some of the other works, with traces of cubic rendition, such as Seated Models, Good News, City Girls, For Better For Worse, Drummer Ecstasy, African Queen and Waiting softens the Naked Truth body of work, away from the worries of failed leadership and declining values.
"I am just trying to be fair to my conscience," the George clarifies in his Artist Statement. He discloses that it’s a journey of ten years. "I have been exploring this concept of Naked Truth since 2004."
He recalls how he started the theme as series and as "soul searching, religious concepts." He however warns that a few of the works for the exhibition may appear offensive to some people. But they are innocent expression aimed at alerting people and leaders about looming danger, he says. "it is a wake up call that violence is real and it is becoming our second nature, therefore, if we do not act fast, danger is imminent."