Saturday 15 November 2014

In Lagos, a Connection of two artists separated by time, experience

By Tajudeen Sowole
 Although Uchay Joel Chima and Jimmy Uche Nwanne are two artists with nothing in common on canvas, but they, however, have a link and share one space in an art exhibition titled Connection. It’s currently showing till November 25 at Temple Muse, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The artists are both Nigerians, but practise from two continents apart: one appears more contemporary, the other has traditional form of representation in eclectic shades. Also the years of experience or practice are also distance apart. All the differences culminate in the diversity of contents that add visual narratives to the Temple Muse design fashions and accessories space in one of Nigeria’s leading central business districts.

Oil on canvas  Written in the skies by Jimmy Uche Nwanne
From what he describes as a work in progress, Chima brings into the Connection exhibition a set of works under Residual series. Populated by black materials that depict darkened period in the life of a people, one of the works titled The Village Was Burnt Down, he says “is inspired by a burnt village set ablaze by Boko Haram in 2007.”

Like other works from the Residual project in this show, the village piece is no doubt rendered in contemporary style, adding to the artist’s growing image of using unconventional materials. But in quite a contrast comes Steps by Steps, in which Chima fuses two female figures, rendered in a drawing lesson rudiments into a foggy like scene where colours compete for space. The drawings, indeed, appear too obvious and perhaps suspicious to ignore. “Yes,” the artist agrees. “It’s deliberate to show that we can still draw.” Whatever informed the importance of proving the artist’s draughsmanship skill in the age of contemporaneity is perhaps important. Observers have warned that more artists are hiding under contemporary practice to cover suspected lack of the rudiment or basic knowledge of art.

Beyond the skills and materials or issues surrounding art and its politics, Chima sees art as a medium to effect a change in the society. “I love Nigeria, and like to say my mind through my art.” This much he expresses in the Residual Series, a project, he explains “is a documentary on disasters such as flooding, crashes, collapse buildings and similar situations.” 

From his Germany base, Nwanne took a break to create works for the Connection exhibition. And making his debut show in Nigeria, the artist expresses concerned over declining girl-child education in Nigeria. And the inspiration, he says “came from the Pakistani girl, Malala case.”

Most of his works are figural renditions with such glaring titles about the message as Nation Building, Tomorrow, Deep and Written in the Sky among others.
Apart from the mission of activism laced around Nwanne’s work, the art contents excavate an artist whose palette is full of resplendent energy that surprisingly, he appears unhurried to release.

The curator, Sandra Obuago-Mbanefo describes the artists as having subtle lines and texture, kinetic color and unique materiality.”  About 37 works, she said are on display.

Chima graduated from the Institute of Management & Technology in Enugu in 1997 majoring in painting, and has had numerous successful shows and art residencies in Canada, the United States and Europe. His works were featured at the Museum of African Culture in Maine, USA this year, and have been part of numerous international auctions including Bonhams in the UK.   A fulltime studio artist since 2005, Chima’s award winning experimental works include painting, sculpture and video art. In Connections, he presents intricate and delicately drawn human figures created out of string on subtle color backgrounds, says the curator.

Nwanne, graduated from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka with a degree in fine and applied arts in 2010. In Connections he presents large portraits of people in thought and motion on finely textured canvases that come alive with an amazing application of colour and finely inscribed poetry. Obiago-mbanefo says Nwanne deftly highlights different aspects of the human condition such as dreams, liberation, despair as well as competition through emotionally charged poses.

“Chima’s subtle figure drawings alongside his chunky, heavy newspaper and charcoal diptychs juxtapose seamlessly with Nwanne’s intense paint dripped canvases which have a dense, heavy quality,” explained Mbanefo Obiago.

The exhbition is Temple Muse’s third show this year. In the previous shows, “we have showcased Nigerian artists active here and in the Diaspora.”

Avinash Wadhwani, director at Temple Muse adds: “We are proud to showcase Chima’s amazing experimental art and host Nwanne’s first exhibition in Nigeria,”  Connections is supported by Ruinart and “will undoubtedly strengthen Lagos’ reputation as one of the world’s twelve most exciting new art destinations,” the curator assurs

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