‘Broken Bridges’, oil on canvas by Duke Asidere.
Debuted last year, the group exhibition returned as La Floraison (The Bloom-2) and showed at Alexis Galleries, few weeks ago, again, with mastery of art as its fulcrum in lifting the theme’s ‘abundance’ focus. It featured works of Bruce Onobrakpeya, Bunmi Babatunde, Segun Aiyesan, Sam Ovraiti, Duke Asidere, Abiodun Olaku, Edosa Ogiugo, Gerry Nnubia, Joe Essien, Ato Arinze, Gab Awusa, Alex Nwokolo, John Oyedemi, Joshua Nmesirionye, Moses Unokwah, Sam Ebohon, Dominique Zinkpe, Zinno Orara, Fidelis Odogwu, Diseye Tantua and Reuben Ugbine.
There is no doubt that contemporary age keeps questioning the relevance of “mastery” of visual expression, but the resilience of fine art, particularly on the commercial realm is not ready to surrender the basics. For Alexis Galleries and its artists, the basics and fundamentals of creativity are earned through tested-hands. “They have already established themselves as masters,” Patty Chidiac-Mastrogiannis founder and director Alexis Galleries said. "They have achieved this feat by brilliant fidelity to their traditional roots, while also playing in the contemporary art genre, with confident bold strokes and colours."
For some of the artists who had second appearances in the gathering, the 2019 exhibition provided window to expand on their themes. Ovraiti recalled that last year, he showed paintings about society happenings. But for the second edition, he created simplicity out of similar themes. “I am looking at the simplest things around us to enjoy, such as sunrise, sunset environmental sceneries, among others.” He noted that people don’t see things like beautiful and natural sceneries “because we are much concerned about other issues” such as financial security. Among the works he showed were those titled Come September and Female Figure.
Nwokolo, who also made second appearance on the exhibition returned to his roots and excavated a piece he titled Red Canopy, which highlights the importance of shelter, either in physical or metaphoric context. He explained how the painting was inspired by a tree in his village, where the people gather, routinely for solve communal issues.
Another work of his titled The Colony highlights how cow the artistic look of cow head has been adapted for different brands, mostly for machines, including automotive brands.
One of the new entrants into the group show, Essien, came with focus on socio-political issues. His work titled Silence revisits leadership and followership as the artist argued that “people take anything given to them by government.” He likened such attitude to that of girls whose parents forced them into prostitutions. Another work of his When We Turn A Blind Eye focused on people pretending that others' problems don't concern them. The paintings belong to what the artist called The Truth' series.
Awusa's Woman Alone says so much about ladies’ complexity. For example, he noted that prostitution "is believed" to be for girls of poor background, and argued that "big people like doctors, lawyers and other professionals go into prostitution too." Also, locally, “single women with absentee husbands too.”
Still on ladies, this much he expressed in Disguised Beauty. He also argued against contemporary African women who go into bleaching of their skin, noting how make over like unnatural hair and others distort beauty.
For Nnubia his 'Goal Getter', he said, comes with clock “because it's one of man's greatest invention to guide people.” On flourishing, which was parts of the exhibition’s components, the artist showed a piece titled 'Abundance', using flower to indicate “harvest of everything,” as to gladden one's heart and inspire.”
Caught in restless mode, Olaku’s streetscape titled The Spirit Of Enterprise (Lagos) celebrates a city that hardly goes to bed. A city that comes with the good, bad and the ugly, Lagos, in Olaku’s brushstrokes, has more liabilities that dwarf its supposedly economic advantages or gains. Specifically, the artist was concerned about how “government is grappling with various challenges.”
Supported by Pepsi, Tiger, Indomie, Mikano, Delta Airline, Cool World, UPS, Cobranet, Cool FM, Wazobia FM/TV, Art Café and The Homestores Limited, the exhibition was organised to raise awareness and fund for a non-governmental organisation, Bakhita Villa project in Lagos. The NGO, according to Chidiac-Mastrogiannis, helps to save and rehabilitate women victims of human trafficking who are returning back home. “Under the congregation’s management and operations, the space houses women and children, providing them with a safe and human and professional support to rebuild their lives,” she explained.
She noted how the gallery wanted the artists to be part of the ladies’ come-back-home to reintegrate them into society.
“We talk about ‘Bring Back Our Girls,’ we should also bring back our women who are stranded outside Nigeria.” She explained how the women are being trained as artisans. “Part of the proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to the Bakhita Villa project in Lagos.”
Excerpts from the gallery’s curatorial statements: “La Floraison II (Bloom 2) is the celebration of nature’s beauty and splendour. The artworks, which will be exhibited interpret, explore and present themes and concepts related to living unbounded lives. Like life, these works are simple and complex and capture many forms, shapes, sizes, materials, patterns and connections in visual narrative.
“All these artists are masters because the majority of them have been consistent for over 30 years, with distinctive style and aesthetics; especially the living legend, Bruce Onobrakpeya, who has been practising for about 50 years. These artists are no longer just artists who create artworks but social influencers, mentors and advocates.
“The works of these great artists are an exquisite crossover from traditional to contemporary art, a skill they have impressed on global art connoisseurs, in their various exhibitions across the world.
La Floraison II brings them together to show their diverse expressions, with a unique way of seeing the people and places around them.”