Sunday 13 November 2016

A Lagos Test For Ghanaian Texture Of New Threads

By Tajudeen Sowole

As a group art exhibition of seven artists from Ghana is currently showing in Lagos, the radiating aura generates two factors:  a bite of Lagos art market for the visiting artists, and a fresh taste of contemporary Ghanaian art for art connoisseurs and aficionados in Lagos.

A sculpture, Pretty Wing by Constance Swaniker
With the familiar works of Ghanaian modernist and crowd-effect master, Ablade Glover; contemporary expression of El Anatsui; and occasional presence of Owusu Ankomah, among others at art auctions in Lagos, the city's art scene has not exactly been devoid of art from Ghana. But these rarely seen artists, now in town on Lagos art landscape, from Ghana set one thinking on how much of the country’s art they actually represent. 
  The current entrants into Lagos art scene from Ghana who are showing a body of work titled New Threads, at Temple Muse, Victoria Island, till November 17, 2016, include Kofi Setordji, Kofi Agorsor, Nii Obodai, Nicholas Kowalski, Constance Swaniker, Nyornuwofia Agorsor and Nana Anoff.  From narrative of post-Kwame Nkrumah and the people's environment, represented in Nii's photography; to the panoramic view of news across the world and effects on local challenges, probed through sculptures by Setordji; and Agorsor's bold abstraction, particularly in Organic Woman; as well as assemblage of discarded objects from Anoff, New Threads appear to confirm that art, increasingly, in Africa, is struggling to strike a balance in appropriation space.

  While intellectual contents of every piece of art, across ages and peoples, cannot be denied, the strength of art from Africa has been in the richness of aesthetics. But in recent times, the challenge of socio-political and economic issues across Africa has tilted themes of artists towards narratives that are more intellectual in contents than aesthetics. The artists of New Threads, like most victims of contemporary African art content-challenge, also struggle to strike that balance, so suggest the works on the walls at Temple Muse. In fact works such as Entangle, a figural painting by Kowalski; geometric rendition, Mind of the Universe by Nyornuwofia, among few others are merely pseudo-aesthetics.
  From the New Threads lots however, stands out something that perfectly fits into the mentality of Lagos art appreciation: Swaniker's sculpture of a humanoids titled. Pretty Wings. Depicted in what looks like a female, the winged figure, in style and technique, reminds one of sculptural themes of a Lagos-based artist, Peju Alatise. Coincidentally, Swaniker, among all the exhibiting artists, is having her second show in Lagos; she was here for a solo few years ago.  
Kofi Agorsor's Organic Woman.

Sponsored by UBS, the Swiss Global Bank, and Moet-Hennessey, New Threads affords an opportunity for expanding African art market within the continent, the curator, Sandra Mbanefo Obiago states. “We need to stretch out a hand of creative friendship across our porous borders and create more opportunities for showcasing cutting edge contemporary African expressions in each others’ countries”
  And as artists of New Threads add to the growing diversity, perhaps, dynamics of Lagos art landscape - particularly showing during the peak of the city's art season - the conservative or traditional art appreciation taste in Africa's fastest growing art hub city, which largely, has been built on aesthetics, is being challenged. However, It should be of interest to the visiting artists that Lagos, in the past ten years, has been breeding growing energy of contemporary contents that are shifting the paradigm.. But in a country like Nigeria where an artist's worth is measured by popular signature in the art market, sacrificing aesthetics value on the altar of intellectual appropriation is like swimming against strong current.

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