Sunday, 24 August 2014

From recess, Artzero artists go drawing with Thought in Lines


 By Tajudeen Sowole
Despite the rising application of contemporary process of art making, which most times deemphasises drawing skills, a Lagos-based group of artists, Artzero, insists that mastery of art still resides in the "basic" and traditional method.

Known for promoting art appreciation at the grassroots, with focus on the mainland axis of Lagos, Artzero, in its ongoing art exhibition titled Thoughts in Lines, showing till August 23 at Alliance Francaise, Yaba, Lagos continues a ten-year-old mission of art for all. The theme and focus of the exhibition is the second outing of Artzero in promoting drawing skills; the group had its debut on the 
subject in 2004.

Artists and guests during the opening of Thoughts in Line 

With 12 artists whose works are rendered in ink, pastel and pencils, Artzero retrieves art's sliding foundation-the good old drawing skills.  Exhibiting artists include Ato Arinze, Muraina Akeem, Mukaila Ayoade, Keke Chidih, Chinonye Ejimofor, Adebesin Adedamola, Busayo Lawal, Babatunde Osho, Celestine Pius, Ogunlade Babatunde, Ajayi Oluseyi and Ismaila Lawal.

Apart from Ismail's still life in pastel After Incubation, an apparent painting as well as that of two or three more artists, nearly every other work on display inside the modest space of Alliance Francaise strictly adhere to the drawing focus of the gathering.
  
Although painterly in shades and lights, some of the other works like Arinze’s Myth of Sisyphus, Muraina's. Kaaba and the Quraishi, Oluseyi's Networking, Chidih's Oja Tomati and Ogunlade's House For All 2 Vision 2020, still exude some characteristics of drawings. But in a two-figure stylised titled The Promise, rendered in ink/gouache on paper by Busayo,, the essence of drawing with lines and other characteristics boosts the theme of the gathering. With minimum or zero painterly hues compared to most works at the gathering, Busayo brings into the composite, some application of lines to effect toning, thus creating a non-flat images, yet without shading.

While the art academia and other interest sectors of visual arts are waiting to see how far the resilience of drawing can keep contemporary method of creating art with the rudiment s, it does appear that the environment, and perhaps perceptions is key. Coordinator, Programme of Artzero, Arinze agreed that 'to an extent" contemporaneity is pushing the basic behind. He however added that "it depends on the environment where an artist is practising."      

But if art indeed, has a global language in appreciation, peculiar environment may not matter. "Not really," Arinze explained. "Art is still not properly appreciated here compared to the west; art is still viewed as craft here."  

Akeem, coordinator of Artzero argued that irrespective of the kind of art an artist makes, "you cannot run away from drawing skill." He noted that drawing transcends art as a profession as "it has been the basics of life generally, from the stone age till date.." He stressed that all form of art takes off from the known before getting incubated into any form. "Any form of art starts from the known to the unknown. Be it installation, performance or sculpture."

Still on the relevance of emphasising drawing skill, an inclusion of more contemporary works in the medium of installation or performance art in Artzero's Thoughts in Lines, would have strengthened the argument for drawing skills. "Our area of coverage really cuts across," Arinze stated, and cited an example of a performance that was featured during one of the group's  past shows. "We have featured performance artist, Jelili Atiku in one of our previous shows.” Arinze said the group actually hoped to have another one in this exhibition, but for other reasons.”

Known for organising a yearly show, Art on the Mainland exhibition series and Lagos Artists Forum, it does appear that Thoughts in Line would add to the regular shows of Artzero. Akeem disclosed that, "we hope to make this a yearly event."
  He explained the group's three years absence on the Lagos art turf. "It was a passive recess."
 Artzero was established in 2002, but did not make a major public appearance until 2004. 

It has, over the years partnered with Alliance Francaise,  National Gallery of Art (NGA) Children Living with Cancer Foundation, Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN), Institute of Applied Spiritual Technology, Washington D.C. U.S. Communicating for change and Development Initiative Network (DIN).

Other projects of Artzero are: Ist Lagos Annual Art Bazaar, an all-sales miniature exhibition across Nigeria and Ghana; regular presentations at the yearly Art and Book Fair of Committee for Relevant Art (CORA).
  In the past, Arrtzero has exhibited masters such as Dr. Bruce Onabrakpeya and Prof. Abayomi Barber with young artists to give members, particularly the less exposed and new artists masterly inspirations. 

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