|Emeka Ilechukwu's 'Queen Mother-2 (81 x 35 x 8 inches, dated 2022)|
MORE than ever before, contemporary artistic expressions, in the last ten to 15 years, have been highly populated with extensive application of materials or medium. In fact, most artists who claim to be working outside the regular medium seemed to have surrendered genuine creative contents to loud application of materials. However, quite a few artists, within the contemporary explossion, have been more sincere. It's understandable that an artist who likes to flaunt their skills in both painting and sculpture has such liberty in what has been accepted as mixed media. But some other artists who possess similar efficiency across the two basic medium may just be more circumvent in sincerely creating art, rather than hiding under the avant-garde of confused mix.
For Emeka Ilechukwu, an artist whose brushstrokes in painting are as poetic as his precision on welded metal art, his approach to visual creation presents critics with more space to appreciate art as well as ventilate subjectivity of the contents. His paintings are populated with shades and hues of brilliance, across medium of canvas and panels. With either some pseudo-drizzling linear effects on the canvas or iconalised motifs on panels, Ilechukwu texturises his mixed media paintings in quite some incendiary of dialogues.
On the eve of the entrance of the new millennium, over 20 years ago, quite a number of myths and hypes were flying around. And what a thoughtful one in Ilechukwu's painterly piece titled Y2K (acrylic and thread on canvas, 52 X 30inches, 2020), as the artist celebrates his 'victory' over the much-hyped alarm about a millennium bug that will crash all non-Y2K compliant computers.
"The anxiety in the air among computer experts was palpable or so it seems," he recalled the frenzie situations then. "The old computer that I was using then didn't have any upgrade." He had no choice but to surrender to the expectation that his computer "will crash on December 31, 1999."
Over 21 years after, Ilechukwu's rendition of a fireworks-filled canvas depicts his own version of celebration of the new millennium. It's a simplified graphic representation that captures sky-filled fireworks that dwarf the illuminated high-rise buildings in the foreground. "On the 31st, after the fireworks and all the glitz and glamour to usher in year 2000, I needed to confirm how my computer crashed since there was no physical explosion," he explained his apprehension the. "I put on the system, to my amazement it worked! I was so ecstatic that I started my own fireworks. It was a big relief."
For Ilechukwu's welded metal pieces, the artist also extends his painting style, sometimes to glaze the multiples of assembled objects for the sculpture. For some critics, welded metal art should be left undiluted with painting, no matter how little the colourisation appears to be. I belong in that school of thought. For this reason, Ilechukwu's welded metal pieces such as Heartstrings (height, width, depth-80, 31, 30 inches) and Queen Mother-2 (81 x 35 x 8 inches, dated 2022), fall into my net of appreciating sculptures in their limited or no glazing textures.
As contemporaneity keeps collapsing boundaries and defying basics of fine art confinement, so are artists throwing up more challenges for historians and critics alike. For example, a piece of art on panels appears like an artistic bat that is either described as painting or sculpture. One of such is Ilechukwu's Ndi Nne Mama, a painting of figurative women on panels. Describing such work as 'painting', he argued, is not exactly wrong, but added that "it didn't represent properly the entirety of the work in my opinion."
He explained: "Without the painting, the relief wood sculpture will still communicate the message clearly." He rather preferred the piece to be grouped as "a relief wood sculpture." Ndi Nne Mama depicts eight women, each with different fashion of either native or combined styles of western and African textures. Adding to the beauty of the work is the elegance, which the artist weaves around the women's postures. But in critical context, the story of the women is more explicit in the figurative representational, even without the panels. Yes, the panels, no doubt expand the mixed media contents, but the paintings drive the story more.
Still flaunting his sculptural dexterity, Ilechukwu, in Queen Mother-2 creates a strict impression in a welded metal of 81 x 35 x 8 inches, dated 2022, in which royal elegance, lifted by embroidery of costumes generates a bust of beauty. Also in Trio Beat (acrylic and thread on canvas, 38 X 48 inches, dated 2022), Ilechukwu's choice of painting technique, in mixed media texture complements the musical theme of the piece. And comes a thoughtful, perhaps, inspirational value to Trio Beat: "One can drum, but it takes drummers to have a percussion symphony," Ilechukwu states in a text attached to the work. "The whole is greater than its members. We can do more when individuals play their role with regard and respect to the team. Choose your orchestra, play your part with honour, diligence and dexterity. The beat is on."
Emeka Ilechukwu's bio: He graduated with distinction as a sculptor from the Institute of Management and Technology Enugu in 1997. Born August 11th 1975 at Nnewi in Anambra state, Nigeria, he continues to create drawing, sculptures and paintings, which are informed largely from his inner visions and desires to solving creative problems. Through these modes of expressions, he addresses numerous socio-cultural and environmental concerns that affect him.
Artist Statement: "Ilechukwu explores diverse media in expressing his eclectic creative ideas, which are drawn from critical observation of everyday mundane things. His works are created to inspire hope and motivate courage. Emeka, as he likes to be called, dissects the opposing forces of life, such as light and darkness; good and evil; positives and negatives; he does this to tease out for his spectators’ concrete mental imagery to ponder on. In creating these visual statements, he is adding aesthetics value to the world, as he declares.
"As an active artist, Emeka has five solo exhibitions, fifty salons, and he has participated in over thirteen group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Due to the uniqueness of his works a number of collectors and art lovers around the world have collected."
- Tajudeen Sowole is a Lagos-based writer on The Arts.