Monday 3 September 2018

Strengthening collage art with painterly 'Fabrication' of Anyanwu

'Eko'. (fabric collage on canvas,  6ft x 5 ft, 2018), by Uzoma Anyanwu.
As much as the landscape of non-traditional materials in mixed media expression has widened, very few artists in that fad have  convincing stories to tell. Most commonly used, perhaps to nauseating taste, is textile materials, either on canvas or in sculptural expressions.
The textile or fabric-polluted Lagos art landscape, unavoidably, haunts one's sense of appreciation walking into Uzoma Samuel Anyanwu's solo art exhibition titled Fabrication, currently showing at Thought Pyramid Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos. Yes, loosely, the title of Anyawu's exhibition gives out the most likely contents of works, particularly with no presence of any fabrication -- in the common understanding -- such as objects or floor sculpture inside the gallery space.

However, purging one's perception of whatever prejudice, usually, is perhaps the best way to enjoy art. With such liberalism, the bold and loud application of fabrics in most of Anyanwu's works are fairly adjudged against the concept of each pieces of art on display.

Painterly set of portraits, mounted on left side of the gallery, unavoidably, attract my immediate attention, three days after the formal opening. Interestingly, the portrait paintings of ladies, grouped under 'Sisi Eko Series' and that of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, expose genuine and convincing application of fabric materials beyond the bandwagon effect. Anyanwu's 'Sisi Eko' series aren't as traditional as one thought; they are fabric collage with acrylic on canvas. In fact, as painterly as one of the series, 'Yellow Scarf', appears, it's actually non-painting, but all fabric collage!.  For others in the series like 'Homeage to Ike Frances' and 'Yellow Scarf II', the artist's dexterity in collage resplends. Same for 'Governor Ambode', a portrait that reverberates the Lagos State helmsman's feminine facial mien.

Like most artists who, subconsciously, surrender their sense of creative depth in concept to the strength of materials, Anyanwu is also, nearly, caught in that trap. Two or three works: Bathers, a silhouette against checkered texture; and 'Rebirth', embosed off the canvas, rescue the artist from falling into the trap of materials overwhelming creative contents. Specifically, 'Bathers' exudes a coalition of optical illusion and sculptural effect, deriving its strength more from the concept as well as the composition than the fabric materials used.

Between simplified expressions and loud application of materials, Anyanwu grows bolder as the exhibits unfold down the gallery space. And why not? Radical expressions of contemporaneity and Avant garde thrive more in such elaborate and aggressive emphasis on materials. If one thought that 'Bathers' and 'The Rebirth', two large works in woven fabrics and acrylic on canvas speak so much about materials, others like 'Eko' and 'Untitled' -- mounted farther down the gallery -- are more explicit.

Every artist's fabric narrative says so much about the depth of how their visual contents interract with the materials. For Anyawu, it's a story he grew up with before becoming artist. His mother's "seamstress profession while growing up", he recalls, "exposed me to waste fabrics". And for quite a long time before producing his current works, Anyanwu has been collecting waste fabrics. "I was just collecting , but didn't know exactly what to do with them until recently". However, his relationship with fabrics , long before he started collecting, he argues, adds up to the fact that "as an artist I believe you give out what you have absorbed so far over a period of time".

'Bathers', (weaved fabrics, acrylic on canvas, 6ft x 5ft, 2018), by Uzoma Anyanwu.
Within the global context, his collection of waste fabrics would later find a focal point in his future.
 "Fabrics are global identities that unite humanity; each of my work has uncountable pieces from different part of the world collaged in one face revealing diverse cultural motifs and symbols", Anyanwu explains in his Artist Statement. "Fabrication examines how we constructively construct and live in our society; intertwining of human visible infrastructures and natural endowments, and our speedy embracement of digital life as globalization is the new way of life".

In 2016, Anyanwu showed as a photographer in the group exhibition of Chinese contents titled Coming To China, at GAC Motors, Victoria Island, Lagos. Perhaps his depth of creative dexterity wasn't exactly noticed then in Lagos art circuit. Two years after, and showing mixed media paintings, Anyanwu still cherishes his photography exploits.
"As a painter and photographer, my paintings and photographs compliments each other, therefore in this exhibition we will encounter deliberate efforts at photographic looking paintings like “LadyinRed” and other works which originally are composed models captured by my camera".

Artistic Director, Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Jeff Ajueshi in a Gallery Statement describ the exhibition as the process of producing "new" artistic contents.
 Excerpts from Thought Pyramid; "The use of fabric which stems from the influence of his mother as a tailor expertly creates a rich blend of colours in his works which enriches the works and helps pass across his message or view in an extraordinarily meticulous manner.
The medium chosen for these works carries the viewers along on a journey and still manages to resonate deep emotions that every viewer relates with. "FABRICATION" is more than just piecing fabrics together, it is a body of work that challenged the artist to dig deep into his emotions, a body of work fascinates every viewer and sparks conversations.
Enjoy the prodigious skill of Anyanwu".
 - Tajudeen Sowole.te

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