Jute, charcoal and wood are three major materials in Eva Obodo's new body of work titled Line by Line, that was recently shown at Renault Showroom, Victoria Island, Lagos. In wall sculptures, the show stresses an emerging strength of medium over art form in harnessing intellectual energy. In fact, Obodo belongs to a section of Nigerian art space that has been pushing for the dominance of materials over forms.
Organised by Arthouse-The Space, Obodo's Line by Line no doubt represents a quiet kind of identity incubated at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, one and a half decades ago by Prof. El Anatsui. Bringing line - the basic, perhaps most crucial ingredient in the process of creating art - into a central theme of the
One of the wrap works in jutes titled ‘Bad Case II’
exhibition, Obodo places less emphasis on forms.
Gradually escaping from the stigma of a 'borrowed-art space', after hosting two exhibitions, the Renault Showroom appears to have absorbed Obodo's Line by Line, despite its low headroom, which is apparently built for cars. Under Arthouse-The Space, the Renault Showroom started with a photography show TransgreXion by George Osodi in 2014 and followed with Emeka Udemba's Tools of Conflicts in March this year.
With a modest number of visitors during the opening of Line by Line, devoid of the usual crowd that chokes most art events in Lagos, the evening allowed for spacious interaction with the wall soft sculptures. From the automated entrance, which gives a fair view of the walls, the rays of materials or medium used in the works are as intense to the eyes as confronting a scorching sun. Clearly a step further into the realm of wall sculpture, most of the works, made of jute, are texturised in rolls wrapped with threads. Such works that have threads as guarded lines include Uzo Di Nma, Ripples, Desert Warriors and Believe Me, among others. Just when these set of works appear almost monotonous with their vertical, but identical lines, then come Open Ended Inquiry, Main Inside, Bad Case series and Incisive Summary, a set of work with something more expressive and a step further in sculptural rendition.
Save for the toning and modulation of the charcoal pieces Black and White and Untitled III, the reign of forms, struggling under the weight of materials, would have clouded the depth of Obodo's creative adventure through the basics of lines in creating art. However, there is something contagious about the supremacy of materials over forms in works of artists who are emerging from what could be the Nsukka-Anatsui 'movement'.
Creative concept "is better expressed using the real materials," Obodo responses during a chat at the opening. "We don't have to box art into traditional forms."
Obodo, who was trained at Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, under Anatsui from 1988-1992, denies the shadow of the Ghanaian master under which some of the institution’s artists, in recent times, have found expressive refuge. "No, everybody is not creating work to look like Anatsui's," Obodo argues, explaining that, basically, the artists give the material a voice. "Take a material, play around it and allow the material to speak."
Thematically, the body of work for Line by Line, he says in the Artist Statement, leverages on "materials and processes," with which "I seek to examine human conditions and social issues." A process, he stresses, "appears to be the connecting thread in all the works, whether in charcoal or fibre."
Also, his thought on materials balkanised the medium's functionality thus: "while the charcoal works attempt to look at the historical situations of the present, piece by piece and bit by bit, the fibre works poke around the future as they deal with the present circumstances, line by line.
In fibre or charcoal, the works maximise the effectual sense of numbers, directional thrust, tenseness and colour to emphasise our ties to the natural world. Thus, the winding strands of nylon fibres in the fibre works bind a web of wrapped jute tubular forms to embody strands of thoughts. Amalgamated into linear narratives, they allude to cloth and what it stands for."
Arthouse -The Space describes Obodo as an artist who works in painting, sculpture, and mixed media. Listed among his ast events are Osaka Trinnale, Japan (2001) and the Dakar Biennale, Senegal (2002); the first African Regional Summit and Exhibition of Visual Arts (ARESUVA) in Abuja, Nigeria (2008); was a juror for the Life in My City Art Festival in Enugu, Nigeria in 2012. He received the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship Award in 2013.
Obodo holds a B.A. (1992), M.F.A (1999), and Ph.D (2011) from Nsukka. He currently teaches sculpture and art education in the same university. His writing has been published in over 20 publications including scholarly journals and exhibition catalogues. Obodo lives and works in Nsukka.