By Tajudeen Sowole
From two extreme ends of art forms, Ibe Ananaba and Tony Nsofor perch on the currency of global issues such as migration and social-media just as the artists offer a window into comparative strength of communication in two different representational narratives. Shown as Of Music, Migration & Meaning at Temple Muse, Victoria Island, Lagos, the artists' thoughts provide two textures in figural representation and abstract impressionism. With the styles and techniques of the artists, curator, Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago brings together a mix not exactly common on the Lagos art space in recent times.
For Ananaba, his oeuvre of fashion and other pop culture themes find a soul mate in the inexhaustible musical resource of late Afro beat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Nsofor's canvas of abstraction, deeply hidden in uli content is as academic as the artist's verbal explanation of his work. "I have been following Ananaba and Nsofor, very keenly," declares Mbanefo-Obiago during a preview. "The two artists represent our diversity."
Ananaba calls his main series Yeah Yeah, a pop culture expression from which some of the musical contents of the 1970/80s till date derives their strengths. Some of his works clearly brings back the conic poses of Fela, from which the painter distils quite a lot of expression. "We only have one Fela, who stood for something and he still lives on," Ananaba tells select preview guests shortly before taking a tour of the works on display inside Temple Muse. Despite watercolor dominant works, the few paintings on display appear to speak so much, so suggest pieces among the Yeah Yeah series. For example, from iconic stage poses of the complex musician in his trade marks of bare chested fashion, comes most pronounced of Fela's stage acts in the energy of raising either one or both arms, which Ananaba captures quite thrillingly in oil on canvas painting.
There may be are quite diverse cultural backgrounds to explain waist beads for females. But the basic fact in generating sex appeal is most common among women of different cultures who use waist beads. From the fashion series of Ananaba comes Jigida, a painting that captures women in native feminineness.
Red Boats by Tony Nsofor, acrylic on paper, 2015
"If my work can't speak for me, then I am a failed artist," Nsofor boasts, adding philosophically, "I love freedom and idea." Indeed, his canvas is a haven of abstraction deep in intellectual contents. But the confidence about his work "speak for me" cannot exactly be sacrosanct. As the preview progresses, Nsofor ends up competing with his work; he does more of explanation - though responding to questions - with so much energy than the subject would keep pace with at a given time. But he defends his long speeches: “people still asks me about something that are already in the work.”
And when the subject is on his New Language Series, Nsofor, b. 1973, ironically, takes a position like someone whose palette has been mixing Ivory Tower colours for over half a century. For an artist whose generation, supposedly, is in the middle of old, modern and the contemporary digital age, Nsofor insists that the new language of Internet in abbreviations is at variance with proper mental or intellectual development.
The more one tries to detach Nsofor's complexity from his work, the louder some contents explain the artist's personality aura radiating through the canvas. For example, uli as motifs on his canvas, despite its importance to the theme of the work, takes a contentious tone.
Nsofor studied Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka majoring in painting. During his third year, he worked as studio assistant for Professor Obiora Udechukwu, whose mentorship had a profound impact on the young artist. In 1999 he opened his own studio in Owerri, Imo State, later moving to Lagos in 2001. Besides fulltime studio work, Nsofor consults as a freelance art writer and photographer.
Ananaba, b.1976, studied Fine & Applied Arts at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) in Enugu, where he majored in painting and graduated with distinction in 1999. He currently works as Art Group Head at Nigeria’s leading advertising firm, Insight Communications Limited alongside full time professional work in advertising.