Saturday, 27 June 2020

Ezeigwe's painterly Beast Of No Nation for political class

Napoleon, 2019, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 66.1cm
In late controversial musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti's musical content, artist Ikechukwu Ezeigwe derives inspiration for his paintings.

Ezeigwe's solo art exhibition titled Beast Of No Nation, virtually showing till June 29, 2020, courtesy of Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi Lagos, places leaders, across the world, on the spots of responsible privilege. It is of note that Ezeigwe is making his first major solo exhibition after winning the grand prize of ‘Next of Kin’ 2019 art competition organised by Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Lagos.


In some of the paintings, the artist's thoughts on Beast of No Nation bring on to the canvas satirical images that radiate much heat about Africa's trajectory in the quest for political and economic directions. The highlight of such paintings, which drives the exhibition's theme, include the artist's style and technique in the way he dresses beasts in human clothings, of mostly office paraphernalia.

 In one of the works titled 'Colonialists,' a beast of unidentified kind is dressed in high ranking ceremonial military uniform. Quite of note, in the bold application of colour, is the failure story of Africa being told; faintly implanted in the background is an inscription 'Berlin Conf..' Indeed, Ezeigwe, in the painting, reminds whoever cares, about how Europeans shared fortunes of Africa at the infamous Berlin Conference of colonial countries, 1884–1885.

For an artist just stepping into the mainstream art space of Lagos, Ezeigwe appears well prepared, so suggest the creative energy in his strokes. From one piece of the exhibits to another, there is deliberate direction of an artist whose palette, consciously, captures attention in seductive art appreciation context.

Away from the common narrative  of blame-game against Africa's colonial pasts, other works from the total 15 paintings in the exhibition indict contemporary failures of the people. Among such paintings are 'Struggle Against Corruption,' 'Animalism: Vote for me I Go Build Road' and 'Meet your Next President: Vote Blindly.' Apart from politicians, also included in the list of failed leaders focused by the artist are businessmen.

Omenka Gallery stated that the exhibition brings into consideration a nod to ancient Greek mythology and an interrogation of colonialism, adding that Ezeigwe singles out the most infamous of rulers. The gallery argued that the show though borrows its title from Fela’s 1986 song, "unlike the Afrobeat maestro, Ezeigwe takes his audience on an excursion through global history."

According to the curator of the exhibition, Seidougha Linus Eyimiegha, the concept came about from his frequent visits to the artist’s studio. He said Ezeigwe was inspired by the works of Fela and George Orwell. “I spent a lot of time with Ezeigwe, visiting often at his studio in the course of this project. He talks a great deal about issues of both individual and public interest." The curator disclosed his interaction with the artist, which he recalled focused on the lyrics in the songs of Fela and literary work of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, describing the two as Ezeigwe's "major sources of information.”

The gallery explained that the concept of bodies that combine human and non-human elements is not new.

Excerpts from Omenka Gallery Statement: "The history of art and literature is replete with images of mutated, transformed and in this case, hybridized bodies. Some of the many instances are mermaids, chimeras, griffins, werewolves and centaurs—the actors in Ezeigwe’s oil on canvas Struggle against Corruption (2019). However, the roles these hybrid characters play, differ with each artist. Here, Ezeigwe’s unique message is not lost. With technical virtuosity, he seduces the viewer while at the same time, warns of a repulsive existence with permanent negative social behaviours and structures, if left to thrive."

Ezeigwe studied fine art at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
 -Tajudeen Sowole.

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