Sunday 9 February 2020

In search of future, artists of Fate VI step out from residency

‘Repousee Assembled Sculpture’ technique by Taiwo Owoyemi.
Building careers of young professionals through a yearly artist-in-residence programme and exhibition is one of the early openers of 2020 Lagos art calendars as six artists converge to share their experience.

Olatunde Taiwo David, Taiwo Owoyemi Sola, Usman Semiu Alvin, Kalu Isaiah, Darlington Chukwuemezie and Akeem Dada are the artists whose works will be on display as Fate VI, from February 15-22, 2020 at Alexis Galleries, Victoria Island, Lagos. The artists, according to Alexis, have been holed up inside the gallery’s residency space since December last year.

Chukwuemezie goes analogous with his set of panels he titled Sailors series, in which he mirrors human activities on earth as being mere passing period. "The work represents all of us as people sailing through life," he said during a preview of Fate VI.

With painting of motifs and symbols, the artist creates small pieces of panels that generate a new beginning in creative period. Though he had conceptualized the panel idea sometimes in the past, the broadening of its scope, Chukwuemezie revealed, was achieved at the Alexis residency. "I discovered this in the last residency, but now improved on it." He is showing another panel, Chess of Life, which is among all his eight works of panel.

Olatunde brings into the group ‘Swing in Your Own Direction,’ a panel of recycled flattened cans depicting fishes in the sea. With motifs that represent other animals, the central imageries of the fish swims in different directions. “It’s about doing your own thing.”

In a society such as Nigeria's, where perception plays a key factor, Semiu Alvin brings his personal experience into visual expression. The artist, in ‘League of Gentlemen,’ a cubism style of expressionism challenges profiling people based on their choice of dressings. He disagrees with the age long adage of 'you are addressed the way you dress.'

In figurative of stylized images of men in suits and casuals, the artist places emphasis on corporate look, arguing that it does not necessarily represent being gentlemanly. "For example, I have been accosted by policemen because I wear dreadlocks," he shared his experience. "But at the same gathering, they (police) did not touch other persons who dresses in what they consider as gentlemanly wears."

 An artist with bold figurative form, Alvin, in another piece titled The Heavy Weight Champion,' relates a winner with everyday life. Success and failure, he said, goes together, "just like you strive and keep winning or losing." He cited Nigerian-British boxer, Anthony Joshua, as an example of success story, who "lost and came back to win again."

Owoyemi used the residency opportunity to promote his coining ‘Repousee Assembled Sculpture’ (RAS). Applying recycled material, he explained how the thematic focus are based on “people’s choices.” Among his works are ‘Tribute to Mama series 1&2, which he said the residency environment “inspired” him to look back to how he became an artist. “It reflects on how my mom pushed me to go an study art.”

In figurative pieces such as ‘Pleasant Expectation’ of a lady who looks forward to a happy home, and ‘Sober Reflection’, depicting a stark nude lady who tries to reflect on the past, Dada flaunts his masterly potential strokes. “We all have reason to, sometimes reflect back on the past, perhaps to adjust, for the future as she is doing her,” Dada explained. And in another work titled ‘Confidential, the artist takes charcoal on canvas medium to watercolour texture.

In appropriating the importance of educating the girl child, specifically on the issue of abortion, Isaiah implants the portrait of Prof Wole Soyinka on the tommy of a lady.

He argued that the painting supports the notion of ‘teach a woman to educate a nation. The painting, he said, is quite of significant, “to educate young women to say no to abortion.”

But there is something the artist is taking from the gathering. “With the residency, I hope to do more of female anatomy.”

Alexis Galleries continues to partner with different groups, including NGO, so suggests the list of groups for the sixth edition of its Artists residency. Loving Gaze, a not-for-profit group and partner in the exhibition serve the unprivileged community in Lagos and Taraba State, through educational activities, basic health care service, women empowerment and vocational training.

Described as being managed by “a multi-cultural team of 150 Nigerian professionals, Italian expatriates and international volunteers,” most of its financial sources, it was explained, come from private donors. “Loving Gaze also invest directly on projects development and local staff salaries.”

Listed as sponsors of Fate VI are Pepsi, Indomie, Tiger, Mikano, Wazobia, Delta Airlines , Turkish Airlines, The Guardian, Cool Fm, Coolworld, Ups, Cobranet, The Homestores and Art Café.

“The residency is to allow exchange among the participating artists,” Patty Chidiac-Mastrogiannis founder and director, stated. “The Fate series has been designed for artists to 'come, grow and go" to explore other things.
 In the past edition the presence of a big and more established artist was meant to inspire the younger participants. For the sixth edition, there was no big artists for mentorship. “But this year the participants have received quite some master artists who visited in mentorship.”  Two years ago, Alexis had a senior artist, from the academia, John Oyedemi, joined five participants for the 2018 edition.

In 2014, Tyna Adebowale, Chukwumwzie, Henry Akhile, Raji Mohammed and Yemi Uthman made the debut edition of the Fate series.
 -Tajudeen Sowole.

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