By Tajudeen Sowole
Barely two group exhibitions old and still fresh on the Lagos art landscape, Raji Mohammed, a young painter in the classic texture of canvas has been given an opportunity of solo art exhibition. The debut is quite a rare one for the promising artist, particularly in a Lagos art space that feasts on conservative approach to collection.
|A painting titled We Are Almost There by Raji Mohammed|
However, Mohammed has his rich theme, Inspired as well as strength of the promoters and venue of the exhibition, Alexis Galleries to rely on as the show opened yesterday, and continues for the next one week. For the gallery, showing a young artist such as Mohammed, particularly at this period is a good deviation from the norms, and aimed at encouraging young artists to maximise their potential. "Raji is though young, he is matured for a solo art exhibition," said curator, Patty Chidiac during a preview at the gallery. "We need to encourage young artists and prepare them early enough."
Indeed, no one else is better placed to understand the young artist as much as Alexis Galleries, which has shown him in two group exhibitions Cupid and Fate. “There are may older artists who wanted to have solo exhibitions, but we would not give them; Raji is hard working, and has a promising career,” Chidiac argued.
For Inspired, Mohammed disclosed how his background of picking smooth brushing from many masters, particularly Ebenezer Akinola informed choice of the theme. But in a broader scope, "my environment, generally, has inspired the theme of this exhibition," Mohammed stated.
Some of the works include The Hand Over, a cultural ritual, but a tribute to democracy. Mohammed explained the work as a celebration of Nigeria's democracy "when former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan congratulated Buhari ahead of the formal announcement of the last presidential election."
For the basic fact of elaborate features in northern Nigerian subjects, most artists' brush and palette would continue to explore the desert axis of northern Nigeria. This much Mohammed's smooth brushing captures in a group of men who adorn turbans. And quite conceptual is the artist's creative injection of what looks like aso-ebi in uniformed dressing of the men who are, strangely too, in topless with only wrapper clothes.
Not exactly in anyway connected to Whitney Houston's last album and hit track, I Look To You, but Mohammed's painting of similar title I Look Unto You appears to share the same thematic contents with the late American diva's work. In fact, the painting, a low angle view of a face gazing into the sky could pass for a visual narrative of Houston's song.
Other works scheduled to be on display include Meeting Before Bedtime, a guide from father to children; Omo Mama, portrait of beloved child; and Royal Escort as well as We Are Almost There. Viewing the works via soft copy, one has no doubt about the artist's strong potential, particularly in realism.
Again, like all the artists shown at Alexis, Mohammed also gets the support of the corporate groups that have been working with the gallery.
The sponsors include Chocolat Royale, Nigeria Info, Cool FM, Wazobia FM, Cool TV, Wazobia TV, Art Café, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Arra Wines, The Homestores Limited, Litho-Chrome Limited, Avenue Suites Hotel and Cobranet Internet Service Provider.
Coordinator at Alexis Galleries, George Edozie has no doubt about the envisaged success of Inspired. "No gallery in Lagos would exhibit a young artist like Raji in a solo," he said, and added that "we are sure of a successful outing; in the history of Alexis Gallery, we have not sold less than 80 percent."
Born on July 29, 1986, in Lagos, Mohammed began his artistic career at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Otto-Ijanikin where he obtained NCE in 2008; he is currently a 400 level painting student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Lagos campus).
He trained informally at Universal Studios of Art in 2008 before acquiring more skills at A.S Ebenezer Studio under the watchful eyes of painter Mr. Ebenezer Akinola.
Excerpt from his artist statement reads in parts. "I see Art as an unending adventure that keeps one moving from one level of creativity to another... Come and enjoy this adventure with me."