Sunday 12 October 2014

At TransgreXion, Osodi captures the shines, duds of Nigeria

By Tajudeen Sowole
Asserting its classic taste on the Lagos art scene, Nigeria's premiere auctioneer Arthouse Contemporary makes a debut art exhibition showing the works of one of Africa's top photographers, George Osodi.

 Cater Bridge, Lagos, from George Osodi’s photography exhibition TransgreXion
Via a new platform, Arthouse-The Space, an outlet described as "exhibiting arm" of the auction house, the auctioneer just opened a photography exhibition of Osodi's works titled TransgreXion, showing till Octobber 17, 2014 at Renault Motors , Victoria Island, Lagos.

Despite the inadequacy of headroom that give art enough breathing space, the ceative and curatorial patterns implored in the display of the works made up for the shortcoming of the auto specified designed venue.  More importantly, Osodi’s TransgreXion has confirmed that Arthouse-The Space was ready for a bite in the primary art market. At Art14 Fair, Olympia Grand, London, U.K, early this year, Arthouse made its entry in the non-art auction outlet with four Nigerian artists. Works of Victor Ekpuk, Osodi, Sokari Douglas-Camp, Kainebi Osahenye, and Victoria Udondian were exhibited under the theme R-evolution, courtesy of Arthouse-The Space.

Kavita Chellaram, the CEO of Arthouse said the exhibition sets the tone for similar and "more to come" using non-traditional art gallery spaces.  For the contents of TransgreXion, it's all about everything Nigeria stands for, Osodi told one of the guests during the opening at the Renault auto space. "Wealth, poverty, disorderliness, aggression, and more", pervading the spheres of the country, he explained, were the focus of the exhibition.  

Quite a number of the works were very familiar, particularly the Kings, Lagos bridge and Niger Delta themes. "The exhibition consists of about six projects," Osodi stated. And some of the works, as familiar as they appeared, "are in editions." His capture of Carter Bridge, one of the accesses that link Mainland and Island of Lagos, is perhaps one of the works with many editions, having appeared on the art scene in Lagos previously.

On the Nigeria's paradox theme of TransgreXion, Osodi questioned, for example, the activities of young Nigerians who plunge the environment into degradation under the guise of resource control. "It is disturbing how some young people devastate our environment through illegal bunkering and refineries." He explained that "this is part of the aggression", which the theme of the exhibition addresses. On violation of the environment, particularly in the oil rich Niger Delta, one thought the multi national companies operating in the region are the real alleged culprits. "Yes, the devastation caused by some of the big oil companies are well known,” he agreed. But hidden from the larger public, he Osodi argued, “is the negative impact of the illegal refineries and bunkering on the environment."

Still on the good, bad and the unpleasant trajectory of Nigeria, the photographer's capture of a filtered Carter Bridge night picture explains the return of decency. "The Carter Bridge I used to know several decades back was usually well-lit until it went so bad." The immediate sorry past was best imagined, and perhaps non-photographic friendly. But as Osodi's lens glorifies the glittering side of the bridge, the other unpleasant aspect of escapes the photographer’s capturing, under the beautiful amber light. Paradoxically, the ugly story of Carter Bridge exists daily, from morning till dusk as commercial motorcycles known in the local parlance as okada go against the flow of vehicular traffic. In fact, if Osodi's wide angle lens has gotten close enough, it might have picked some of the above the law okada riders who have been causing road crashes on the bridge regularly.

More explicit, Lagos represents the colourful image of Nigeria so suggests a high angle shot of the Eyo masquerade festival, the city's face of cultural and traditional identity. The work, which is titled Eyo Oniko has the yellow hats of the masquerades connived with the brownish-yellow of the plant costumes, dominating the supposedly white identity of Eyo.. With this shot, Osodi steps up his game, capturing Eyo in rare composite.

In the royal theme comes a revisit of his show in the U.K last year where he showed Nigerian Monarchs at Bermondsey Project, London. For TransgrXion, it's a 21 pieces in miniatures of Obas, Emirs from south- west and the north as well as kings from south-south and the south-east of the country.

Born in 1974, Osodi whose media experience include stints with the Associated Press, The New York Times, TIME Magazine, Der Spiegel of Germany, USA Today and The Guardian of London had his most profound solo exhibition Paradise Lost in Nigeria at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos in 2008 as part of the CCA's trilogy exhibitions. And having done quite a lot of works on the volatile Niger Delta, he produced a book title Delta Nigeria – The Rape of Paradise. It was a sequel to his 2011 project, Oil Rich Niger Delta.  

Some of his past exhibitions include Oil Boom Delta Burns at International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, U.K (2012); We Face Forward at The Manchester Museum, Manchester (2012), among other shows abroad.

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