Sunday 22 October 2023

Nmesirionye's Symphony of boundless lines at Yenwa Gallery

    A section of 'Symphony' exhibition at Yenwa Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos. Pic: c/o of Yenwa.

WHEN newly opened Yenwa Art Gallery chose Joshua Nmesirionye as one of the early artists shown in its six months of existence, an aura of freshness beckoned. As Yenwa came into Lagos art scene from one of Nigeria's new generation curators, Ugonna Ibe, also, the exhibited artist, Nmesirionye recorded a significant feat in his career.

Extended for few more days after its initial closing date of September 28, 2023, Nmesirionye's solo exhibition titled 'Symphony', shown at Yenwa Gallery, Muri-Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, offered something for everyone across art appreciation tastes. A visit to Yenwa, on the afternoon of the last day before the works were taken down, was an opportunity to see colours in its boundless textures and timeless brushstrokes. And there was a surprise too: sculptures on display from an artist not known to have shown non-paintings in his over 20-year-old career. "I have never shown my sculptures in public as formal exhibition," Nmesirionye disclosed to one of his guests. "This exhibition is very significant for me and my career."

In paintings and sculptures, Nmesirionye created representational images as well as abstractions that spotlighted environmental issues. The walls and floors of Yenwa Gallery exhaled in the eclectic energy of an artist whose works could have been that of more than three artists in one space. From both representational figurative, abstractions in paintings as well as stylised portrait and minimalistic rendition  in sculptures, Nmesirionye's Symphony asserted the artist's creative diversity.

Among such pieces that radiated an aura of diversity were Crown (Stained almond wood, 47 x 10 inches, dated 2023); Afrocentric (almond wood, 43 x 10 inches, 2022 ); Cocoon (Apa wood, 20 x 10 inches, 2022); and Torso (Stained Almond wood, 47 x 11 inches, 2023). The sculptures, mounted on a dedicated space, in the curatorial style of Ibe's presentation, seemed to have created luminous ambience in dissecting broad art appreciation.

Either in hidden or boldened styles, lines are crucial aspects of creating art. For Nmesirionye, he applied lines to achieve duality of texturising the canvas as well as as lacing the canvas with dramatic aging technique. For example, in pieces like Symphony and The Sentinel, Nmesirionye flaunted his aging canvas technique that generated crack effect, enhancing texturised surface.

As the human representational rendition – mostly in critical context – by Nmesirionye kept one spellbound, the artist's analytic capturing of the environment offered spiritual connection with nature. Among such incendiary interpretation of nature in poetic colours included paintings like Petra Peace, Oasis, Musing with Green and Avant-garde. Whatever interpretation any viewers of the works had in dissecting the thoughts of the artist about these paintings, there were, most likely, quite some metaphor to distil from the concepts.

Whoever was an enthusiast of darkened figurative paintings, Nmesirionye's Reclining Petal (acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches, dated 2022) had something refreshing to enjoy. The painting brought depth into the new-found African contemporary visual narrative of darkened figurative painting. Captured in pseudo-silhouette, Reclining Petal had so much to disseminate as regards the study of lighting, in a figurative painting. From the foreground to the backlight, the artist created exciting space for the contrast of shade and light to separate the lady from both the front and patterned back wall.

With his debut solo art exhibition, Nmesirionye has uncovered boundless lines of painting in Symphonic visual rhythm, generating timeless sculptures, shown in public for the first time.

Based in Lagos, Nigeria's art hub city, Nmesirionye b. 1968, in Umuahia, Abia State completed his Higher Education at the famous School of Art and Design, Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State in 1998. With a Higher National Diploma (HND) in painting, he had his post-school training from notable Nigerian master, Abiodun Olaku at Universal Studios of Artists, Nationality Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.

His Universal Studios base, arguably, has sustained its fountain status as a crucial spot from where quite an army of artists have emerged outside the formal art schools. And indirectly, Nmesirionye's most recent group exhibitions have links to the Universal Studios. Among such exhibitions are Legacy (I) and (ll), at Mydrim Gallery 2021, 2022 respectively; Infinite Treasures, Terra Kulture Lagos in 2017; October Rain, National Museum Lagos 2016; and Mutual Art Inspiration, Zoetemeer, Netherlands 2016, among others.

-Tajudeen Sowole is a Lagos-based writer on The Arts.

Translucent S.I. Media management agency for artists and art galleries

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