|Thick n' thick by Emmanuel Isiuwe|
From July 28-Aug 2, 2017, artist, Emmanuel Isiuwe returns to the art exhibition circuit with a solo titled Man and his Presumptions, showing at Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos. The exhibition is Isiuwe's first solo in over 27 years of the artist's career.
The exhibition is supported by Arian Capital Management Ltd!
A curatorial note from Luciano Uzuegbu describes Isiuwe's exhibition of paintings and drawings as a concept of Man series that started in 2013.
Excerpt from the curator, Uzuegbu: "The Man series began in 2013 not as a deliberate pursuit of such theme celebrating ‘man’ by the artist who was merelyobeying his creative impulse. Relying on his experience, he explored what could be said to be his own daily activities as a husband, father and guardian with images of reclining male figures; a man holding up his child in admiration; male labourers with shovels or wheel barrows (who according to the artist, rise up early in the morning to jostle for jobs at several designated sites in Lagos); men dressed in (Igbo)ethnic outfits won by dignified individuals including rulers; and others who gather for initiation into manhood, or are engaged in sundry activities. These images upon close examination, offer a pattern highly suggestive of a bias for the male gender, and that has set the tone for this exhibition.
Emmanuel Isiuwe has urged me to accept the nominal ‘Man’ literally as the opposite of ‘Woman’, and not as representative of all humans (to avoid patriarchic pitfalls); and he has reasoned that narratives of the male subject should be shared as much as the female has been patronized by numerous artists.
I can not agree less that It does appear there is a conspiracy by (especially male ) practitioners to show more preference for female subjects, as they inundate our spaces with ‘nude females’, ‘mother and child’, ‘beautiful and fashionable females’, ‘female dancers’ and so on. From Picasso to Ben Enwonwu (both iconic artists), females are easily the most used muse or subjects. In fact, Enwonwu did not only explore various female forms, but also pointed to the fluidity, rhythm and vibrancy embodied by women as justification for thier recurrence in his works, in contrast to his (occasional) male subjects, which he considered ‘stiff’.
It is Isiuwe's belief that the more the focus is on man, the more several aspects of his endeavors in the family and society are shared and better appreciated. In this case, he has highlighted obvious situations of genuine endeavors among men such as, devotion to an honest earning and supporting their family,
“Oftentimes, artists ( and the society at large) take for granted, or do not highlight man’s efforts; it is either the male subject is avoided as uninteresting, and not possessing the charm to attract collectors, or they are portrayed by implication, as brutes in such narratives condemning women’s rights violation,” says Isiuwe.The Man series by extension therefore, subtly interrogates salient societal issues of ‘misogyny’ and ‘patriarchy ’, both stereotypes often assigned to men owing to circumstances where women are oppressed. These negative tags in other words, undermine men’s larger efforts in striving to maintain theirhomes. “A man must always be in control, especially in the sense of accepting responsibilities” Isiuwe observes, and in this case, drawing attention to him or making him the focus of an artistic expression scores him some importance.
This persuasion of the man's narrative may appear simple to understand, especially if we credit the African society as shaping the artist’s world view and nurturing his art; yet, it carries with it unavoidable baggage contestably dismissing the claims as mere presumptions of man with self-acclaimed legitmacy. For instance, beyond biological differentiation, men possess more physical strength, and so take charge in carrying out more physical tasks effectively than women; but some women have proven to outdo some men physically. I have also known the man (beginning with my father) to be (considered) the head of the family, and primarily, the provider or bread-winner; but some women win bread to their families more than their husbands, and are more alive in decision making at home. Yet, in every case where the order of societal expectations of man have been reversed by woman, we are left with a sense that it is an anomaly (in Africa), which becomes praise worthy if the woman is humble even in attaining a considered man’s feat. In fact, some women who earn far more wage than their husbands, submit to the man to take charge of the expenses at home, in a bid to preserve his ego; while some women know exactly where to draw the line; and this has proven to be one of the major reasons some husbands get physical with their wives, in order to check such women’s considered excesses, unfortunately, so.
Much in admittance of the realities of the alluded stereotypes to a certain extent, Emmanuel Isiuwe declares; “I do not suggest really that there is a competition between men and women with regards to their roles in the family and society, but what I simply have resolved to do is offer alternative outlook, which rather underpins man’s predisposition towards striving to meet his family's needs. This can be drawn from my work showing men jostling for work to highlight where their strengths can be profitably and honourably channeled…” (, rather than an undertone of enslaving and physically violating their wives); “I have also captured ‘father and child’ in my work, My joy to demonstrate that men are equally capable of such attendant emotions of bearing children…,” in this case, being a father.
His subjects here are mostly rendered in rich acrylics and oils with furious strokes of the palette capturing the feel and essence of his narrative. Hi impressionistic style( not decidedly thick as Emenike Owgo’s) of multi-layering of pigments for which Isiuwe has become famous, has yielded visual illusionary forms, (according to him, phantoms), which nevertheless, do not inhibit the clarity of his subject and intentionsas deducible in My Story. A few times, like a poet, he has deliberately pushed forms (or phantoms) as he did in Thick’n’thin (appropriating the clustered wings of cocks as a metaphor analogous of men in struggle) to a point of obscurity, to achieve such effects conveying his meaning, while gratifying his impulse. In his Contemplations I, II & III, we are also confronted with such progression from a relatively simple to outright avant-garde representations, incorporating found objects including tubes of exhausted paints in deriving a mixed-media face of a man, presumably. There is a strong suggestion here that Isiuwe may be up to something entirely unknown of his style, which may yet portend his future artistic concern.
Isiuwe has also demonstrated a mastery of watercolour showing balance of forms with often heightened colour temperament; while his drawings reveal thick linings of a decisive pencil-grip, perhaps comparable to Gab Awusa’s, as Ben Osawe’s may amount to a farther stretch.
Emmanuel Isiuwe’s past work has celebrated women in coulorfulAfrican fabrics, and also paid attention to nature, including images of horses and delightful sceneries. The Man collection telling of ‘his’ life as a man is received as a worthy perspective extending his oeuvre, and culminating in his long awaited maiden solo."