Sunday 18 October 2015

With non-members, Iponri Artists revisit Today in History

 By Tajudeen Sowole
Remember a group of artists whose sudden emergence and highly rated skills stunned Lagos art space in 2008? Yes, they are the Iponri Artists, whose debut art exhibition New Dawn, at National Museum, Onikan Lagos seven years ago and a follow-up, Isokan (Togetherness) in 2009 at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, confirmed the arrival of new generation of gifted young artists.

Royal Procession by Tayo Olayode.
The artists: Tayo Olayode, Bede Umeh, Kehinde Oso and  Sanusi Abdullahi are currently in what they describe as "alliance" with non-members such as Bimbo Adenugba, Gerald Chukwuma, Uchay Joel Chima and Bolaji Ogunwo. The alliance is a group art exhibition titled Today in History, showing from Thursday, October 22 to 28, 2015 at The Thought Pyramid Art Centre, FCT Abuja. For the Iponri Artists, showing with non-members is not new. In 2011, the group, had, in Abuja exhibited with other artists, and a year after continued with an international collaboration when the artists showed in Accra, Ghana, again with non-members.
The idea of alliance with non-members, Olayode told select guests during a preview in Lagos, will be continuous in the next few years, and may take the artists to U.S or Europe next year for exhibitions. Speaking on Today In History exhibition, he disclosed that the choice of Thought Pyramid Centre as a space has to do "with our diverse and big canvas."
Apart from perching on the pedigree of Iponri Artists' name, individual exhibiting artist has made a mark on the Nigerian art space. From Olayode, who came into art connoisseurs' view after winning a Terra Kulture-Ford Foundation talent hunt themed Celebration of Talents in 2006; to Chukwuma, a mixed media relief sculptor artist who appears to have created an identity in wall sculptural pieces; Umeh, a painter with depth of skills on the canvas; as well as Abdulahi, a metal sculptor of simplified themes; Adenugba, a painter whose realism brush keeps reminding us the essence of art; and Chima, a mixed media artist who keeps expanding burnt materials for visual narration, the gathering at Today in History suggests one of the richest visual expressions at FCT, Abuja in recent times.
 Some of the works include A Time To Ponder, Umeh's painting that takes the texture of an embossed portrait. Other works of the artist for the show include Adaobi, a multiplication effect; and Delegation, a stylised figural of people in gathering.
After their residency at Vermont in the U.S., Olayode and Chima have been flaunting whatever experience garnered from the programme. Arguably, Olayode is among the very few young Nigerian artists whose signature is well distinct in his painting of figures, using crowd effect. For Today in History, two of the works he is showing: Night Market and Royal Procession confirm that the artist is stepping up his game.  For example, his application of colours, are now more conservative.
  Bede Umeh’s Time to Ponder.

Almost one year after he had his first post-residency show titled Connection, a two-artists exhibition, Chima's outing with Iponri Artists will afford followers of his work to see more of his new technique. Chima, again brings his narrative about burns and darkness as explains in portraiture of a couple rendered in black rubber pieces. 

  Adenugba brings his new canvas of realism into the gathering with works such as Ecstassy, Green For Sale anf Fragment. In the last few years, he has populated his realism  canvas with signs and motifs, some of which are pronounced, for example in Ecstacy, a piece about ladies in sensous dancing.
 Ogunwo's leaning towards portraiture is seen in Out of the Blue, a textured canvas of three faces with high depth of ligthing technique; a heap of colours titled Rich Dad, Poor Children; and Etiolated, a streetscape set in what looks like rural area. The artist's touch in aging or ruins as seen in Etiolated brings a tone of dynamism into his oeuvre.

 As one of the artists whose work is attempting to collapse the barrier between painting and sculpture, Chukwuma continues his sojourn in relief texture. Among his contributions to this gathering are Seasons and Times, Tree of Love and an Untitled piece that stresses the artist's burnt wood technique. However, in Seasons and Times, there appears to be a sharp contrast in his identity.
 As the only sculptor in the gathering, Abdullahi brings in the beauty of natural metal with works such as Our Domain, a depiction of insects on cobweb;  drummer of native Yoruba dance steps, in Bata; and another insect life, Tussle, where butterflies perch on a hibiscus flower. Perhaps adding painterly touch to Tussle with red hibiscus and yellow butterfly, Abdullahi offers quite a choice in collection tastes.   

  At different stages when Iponri Artists invited non-members to join the group, the attraction is usually differerent. For Adenugba, who is making his second appearance with the group, the attraction he disclosed, was informed by his tracking of the group after their debut New Dawn as well as "having known individual members for decades." Adenugba also recalled that "my Ghana experience showing with the group is another reason I am in this exhibition." 
  The recurring assertion of Olayode as an artist to watch attracted Chukwuma to attempt a show with the Iponri Artists. "I have known Tayo for a while, though not exactly familiar with others, but the group has been impressive," Chukwuma said.
  Abdullahi's artist statement described him as "a highly resourceful young experience artist with a zeal for achievement and success in order to carry it to greatest level.” It added that he has produced “many great works some of which adorn public and private across the world has art works.”
Bata by Sanusi Abdullahi

Ogunwo explained his work: "My art is informed by the people and events that permeate my immediate milieu. In the course of my artistic career   spanning over a decade, I have resolved not to be led by just the trending thematic and stylistic culture in the art practice  but to see and represent ideas the way I feel and not just the way they are, hence my art is cathartic; a purgation of my emotions on frenzied canvases. I ventilate loudly through my pallette addresing socio-political issues ranging from corruption and moral deficit  knowing fully well that Nigeria will soon assume her position as the giant of Africa indeed."
 Oso recalled how his passion for painting “overshadowed my sculpture dream," adding that "I decided to put the urge to test, and the urge successfully became a passion and hobby."
  Between New Dawn and Today In History, it appears that the numerical strength of Iponri Artists has dropped. The group started with New Dawn, which featured works of 11 artists. The next show, Isokan, featured works by Olayode, Abdulahi, Aimufa Osagie, Ekpo Odungede, Ade Odunfa, Umeh and Oso. However, the drop in the number of founding members has not in anyway affected the vreative strength of the Iponri Artists, so suggest the group’s rising profile.
   Over two years ago, Iponri Artists were in Ghana where they had a group exhibition titled Beyond Boundaries. The exhibition, organised in collaboration with Nubuke Foundation also featured the works of Aimufia Osagie, Adenugba, Okpu Norbert Olumide Onadipe and Damola Adepoju.

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