Saturday 8 May 2021

From canvases of Egharevba, Akpang, art predicts future

'My Own World' (water colour on paper 67cm x 84cm), by Sukanthy Egharevba. Pic: c/o Sukanthy Egharevba.

COMING out of the Covid-19 lockdown of last year, Calabar-based artists, Sukanthy Egharevba and Clem Akpang FRSA, generated paintings and mixed media works that alert creative professionals about the future. The new pieces and others produced earlier formed the bulk of the display at the artists' exhibition titled Creolization, which took off at Calabar Sports Club, from April 12-18, 2021.

Scheduled as a tour art, the exhibition is also expected to show in Lagos and Abuja, June-July. Significantly, Creolization took off from the artists' Calabar base, suggesting that art appreciation can be promoted outside the Lagos hub.

Present at the exhibition to encourage the artists were art enthusiasts, including a former Governor of Rivers State and Minister of Arts and Culture Brig. Gen. Anthony Ukpo (rtd). The artists, according to  Brig. Gen. Ukpo, have tried to create works of art that reflect the challenges brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic. Ukpo, who was the 'Distinguished Guest of Honour' at the event noted that “the artists had enough time to create the works during the lockdown.”

Shortly after Ukpo declared the exhibition open, Egharevba told the viewing guests that the show was all about “coming together” for “realization.” She disclosed that “most of the works were done during the coronavirus,” lockdown. On her artistic focus, generally, Egharevba, a Sri-Lakan expatriate in Nigeria explained that the themes revolve around women. While proudly saying that "I am a woman: I like to talk about female issues," Egharevba who is married to a Nigerian declared: "I am not a feminist.” Among her works in such femininism context are Dreams and Realities,  A Search for Fertility and Adolescence.

The Creolization show, Akpang told guests, "is all about new diversity," citing, as an example, one of his works, which he said depicts the  reflection of "that complexity."  Akpang took an overview of the diversity of challenges confronting different countries and the world in general, suggesting that a paradigm shift in leadership is urgently needed. He argued that the world dominated by men in leadership requires a shift that would allow women take control. He was emphatic: "I am suggesting a new doctrine of necessity where women should take the front seat while men take the back seat."

The two artists, in their joint statement noted that the artworld is currently reconfigured to an age of globalization. The areas of such global contents that connect the world such as travel, migration, increased communication, technological advance- ment and cross-cultural meta-influences, they said, are all affecting how creative professionals live and produce art.

While taking the audience through the exhibits, Egharevba explained that the idea of multicultu- ralism and identity have taken a direction she described as "conceptual creolization.” Egharevba, who currently teaches Art at Cross River University of Technology, Calabar noted that artists and designers have stopped seeing the world through the "localized or discipline-specific perspective but with a globalized and multidisciplinary lens as cultures/disciplines continue to merge.” 

The theme of the exhibition, according to the Artists Statement: "Creolization' is largely based on translations, subtitling and generalized appropriation of existing cultural forms and visual idioms transformed into new realisms, or on the merging of various genres of expression into a new stylistic vision. Egharavba and Akpang argued that the crux of contemporary expressionism is defined by aesthetic paradigm, noting that  today’s art explore the boundaries between cultures and continents, art and design, art and science. Also included in such explorations, they added, are "the bonds that text and image, form and color, time and space, weave between themselves."

However, the artists saw all the mentioned factors as new phenomenon and a reflection of a contemp- orary conceptual movement. In such transition, they explained, artists respond to a new globalized perception, by traversing cultural landscapes and genre specifications saturated with signs, to create current pathways between multiple formats of artistic expression.

Excerpts from the artists’ joint statement: “We are entering the era of universal modernism in which the artist becomes a contemporary traveller who passes through different signs and formats, deriving impetus from such passage for his/her artistic gains. This evolution can be seen in the way works are made with new types of forms appearing, made of lines, signs, re-invented leitmotifs and juxtaposition of various cultural visual idioms, drawn both in space and time, materializing trajectories rather than destinations. What this means is that a new creative space has emerged not bounded by territory, time or cultural restrictions, but one that, represents unlim- ited artistic/creative possibilities."

Brig Gen Ukpo said his passion for the creative industry, which  kept growing even after leaving government work, inspired him to grace the opening of Creolization. "When I was Governor of Rivers State and minister, I promoted arts and culture nationally and internationally," Brig Gen Ukpo recalled his tenure in governments. "So, today I am glad to be here to declare open this exhibition that shines an artistic light on Calabar." He noted that exhibitions like Cleorization "promote culture and humanity as a whole that's why I have a strong liking for artworks and art shows especially as an art collector."

Akpang, a Senior Lecturer at Department of Visual Arts and Technology, Cross Rivers University of Technology said Creolization 2020 presents a visual dialogue around what he described as "theoretical premise." It's a factor, of which he noted that "the artworld is experiencing the emergence of a Global Modernism through travel, cultural exchange, the examination of history, cultural re-invention and the transgression of genre boundaries as profound evolution in our artistic vision of the world today."

He explained: "The exhibition promotes cultural hybridism, genre intersection and multiple modes of material experimentation re-invented through painting, sculpture, installation and digital arts, as an expression of this new modernity in the contemporary artworld." 

 On multiculturalism, Akpang said contents of the exhibits are rich enough to boost discourse on the subject. "The recontextualization of Nsibidi, Adinkra, Uli, Tiv and Tamil traditional graphic systems into leitmotifs for modern art to instigate the rethinking of today’s creative and expressive notions (art and design) is a crucial conceptual and methodological feature propagated in this show. 

With its overarching promotion of appropriation, hybridization and visual translation as a creative viewpoint, this two-man show offers a new kind of gaze on contemporary culture, art, aesthetics and identity as a specific globalized perception hinged on trans-national artistic/cultural dialogue, bridging of traditionalism and contemporaneity, art and design, as well as African and Asian cultural idiosyncrasies.


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