Wednesday 16 May 2018

Laying 'Foundation' with lines of future in Ohagwu's debut solo

From Uchenna Ohagwu, 'Ponder-2, oil on canvas, 36" x 36" (2013).

Whoever understands the language of lines has the key to the mastery of art. Uchenna Ohagwu is an artist whose skills with lines is on the journey of such mastery by embossing forms out of his canvas.

Ohagwu creates mosaic-like textures with lines by piercing through imageries of optical illusion full of
depth. Experimental though he calls his technique in painting and drawing, the body of work are showing as The Foundation - his debut solo art exhibition - from Saturday, May 19 to Thursday 31, 2018 at Moor House, Ikoyi, Lagos.

It's a "seven-year-research and experimentation with lines", Ohagwu discloses during a preview at Weave and Co Gallery, Moor House. From specialising in painting at Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, in 2003, Ohagwu ended up in advertising agency's studio.

Not exactly far from the mainstream art scene, having shown in quite a few group exhibitions, but his mission with lines, he says, has been a passion. Paintings such as Ponder-II, Optimist-I  (2013) and drawing Communicate-I (2011) expose an artist with dexterity in challenging art enthusiasts' sense of imagination. Either in figurative captures or streetscape renditions, Ohagwu's movements of lines on canvas generate a thirst of curiousity quenched by the artist's application of hues.

For example, while Ponders-II derives its optical illusion effect from bold layers of lines in mostly bright colours and busting out a hand from the canvas, Optimist-I takes its strength from thinner forns. In fact, the portaiture of a lady in an optimist mood melts the lines into cubic textures of mosaic look to create a key highlight of bluish moonlighting. What a texture of portraiture!

As a theme for the exhibition, The Foundation, he says, commences the beginning of his journey towards bigger things to come as far as lines are concerned. And it's all about how he sees his environment via the lines in paintings and drawings. "The title is inspired by how I see art and issues that surrounds me".

He could have chosen the path of direct realism painting. But there is something synonymous with lines and life in general that the artist thought was not ignorable when he set out on his seven-year-research. "Every milestone you achieve in life is like lines", he argues, explaining that instead of having realism, he chose to give the journey of how people get to their destination. And lines replicate such depiction  better. so suggest the body of work for the show.

Still on his environment. he notes that "generally there are discordant tunes going on", every where in the country, yet people still go about with hope. This much he depicts for example, in Beats series 5 as the lines practically replicate the figures. Also, Submission, is about a couple looking up to God through the sky despite all the troubles".

For 16 years post-training career, yet not a full-time studio artist; he must be missing something. "Yes, I missed something for not being a full-time studio artist, though I don't feel bad for not exhibiting regularly".
 However, having worked on brands for a long time, his understanding of graphics, he explains, has helped in better process of creating art.
'Optimal-1', oil on canvas, 36" x 36" (2013).

The mainstream art space of Lagos and advertising industry are like two parallel lines. Ohagwu is very much aware of this difference. "I am ready to learn from the Lagos art market, starting with this show". He however cautions that "my expectation is not much about commercial success".

Curator of The Foundation, Moses Ohiomokhare who has been tracking Ohagwu from the artist's post-training years describes him as one of the  best to have emerged from IMT in 2003. The curator however says the 'New Possibilities' of Weave and Co "is the place to start towards showing at big galleries". Ohagwu is the fifth artist showing under the 'New Possibilities' concept.

Ora Ataguba, the curator at Moor House, under whose creative concept the 'New Possibilities' emerged
 notes that though things are hard on the economy, "creativity is not something you can hold down; you can't begin with commercialising it". The passion as an investment, she adds, comes first and the commercial dividends later. "For us, it is to continue working at it as we are positioning for the time when the art price will sky rocket".
 -Tajudeen Sowole.

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