By Tajudeen Sowole
Apart from a solo art exhibition titled Mother Tongue held two years ago in Lagos, a Germany-based artist, Chidi Kwubiri has not had much window to engage his growing secondary art market followers. But with mostly new body of work titled Points of View, currently showing at Renault, Victoria Island, Lagos, Kwubiri's amazing large canvas of pointillism-like technique is having its first major interaction with mainstream Nigerian secondary art market since his works became regular feature at auctions.
And that Points Of View is organised by Arthouse-The Space, a sister outlet of auctioneer, Arthouse Contemporary further fuels the perception that the exhibition is an extension of the latter's gathering of followers and loyalists who have never seen as many of the artist's works in a single gathering. Apparently, an opening day for select audience, so suggest the few guests that trickle into the Renault automobile showroom converted to art space on a Saturday evening.
On the left of the exhibition space, Kwubiri's signature as commonly seen at auctions appears to be the centre of attraction as clusters of viewers engage in conversations before the canvases. But on the right of the entrance are what look like a set of paintings from another palette: framed paper pieces in a different kind of forms, textures and vertical shapes. Uncommonly Kwubiri, but identical, the 14 pieces titled Memory Lane, all speak one common language in visual narrative of African mask. "They remind me of my root," Kwubiri says to me shortly after taking an escape from circle of guests who cluster in front of his large canvases. "As a child growing up in the village, I was fascinated by crafts, mud houses and other native creative works that provided sources of inspirations for me."
And in these series of homage, Kwubiri depicts a childhood perception of how art gradually unfolds to him, using a mask that appears to be swimming out into the beam of colours. Indeed, impressions of eyes, nose and mouth are all that the series exude to create the illusory effect of masking.
Perhaps not to isolate the mask themes from the entire concept of Points Of View, two pieces - not Memory Lane series though - titled In The Deep and Out Of The Woods are mounted among the main body of large pointillism-like signature of the artist. With large space, the mask contexts of the themes appear more expressive and better appreciated.
In mostly portraitures. Kwubiri's Point Of View probes into people's state of minds, sometimes in meditational postures as seen in works such as Thinking Out Loud, Supplication and Free As A Bird. And in Eze Goes To School and What On Earth, it's time to test viewers' perception of abstraction as against realism.
Centrally, Points Of View, according Kwubiri focuses on how diverse views have shaped the complexity of global issues. And sometimes, leaders with good intention, he notes, are swept with the crowd of mischief-makers. For example, Sunset, a Barack Obama portraiture in half-face, he argues represent end of an era in global politics that may take another decades or century to resurface. "Obama comes and does his best as far as the world is concerned… and he is a role model for me," Kwubiri commends the style of the U.S president's approach to issues. "As the sun is setting, Obama takes his exit."
For an artist based in Europe, the opening of Points of View brings opportunity to meet with community of art enthusiasts, particularly from secondary art market. Indeed, it is unrealistic to pretend that new breed of art collectors have not grown on the Nigerian art market landscape since auctions became regular features over seven years ago.
Mrs Kavita Chellaram, whose initiative of art auction changed the Nigerian art scene notes the link that brought Kwubiri and the new breed of collectors together. "After numerous collaborations with the artist in Arthouse Contemporary’s auctions over the past seven years, this exhibition offers the public an opportunity to delve more deeply into Kwubiri’s rich artistic practice," Mrs Chellaram writes in the catalogue of the exhibition, "Fueled by his personal experiences and a reflection of the local and international environment, Points of View highlights Chidi Kwubiri’s singular visual style. As the exhibition title suggests, it is through both his technique and critical reflection that we are able to delve into such a unique way of exploring Nigerian culture and the world at large."