There’s something about reading so many art reviews that makes one believe that they too can write a review of art. This explains my setting finger to keyboard on this occasion, to pour out my thoughts on the astounding exhibition at African Artist Foundation (AAF) recent exhibition – IJE: Maker’s Lab. The exhibition featured works of rising Nigerian contemporary artists, who’s offerings reflect the maturity you’ll find in the art of seasoned artists, but not without the effervescence of their youth.
AAF’s Makers Lab, which is in its 3rd edition, had on display; mixed media paintings by Adeoluwajoba Deolu, ink layered print works by Ray Isibor, film & photo installations by Kamnelechukwu Obasi, photography by Aadesokan, digital illustrations by Phillip Fagbeyiro and sound art by Yinka Bernie.
The evening at AAF blossomed amidst feel-good afro-pop, trap, and alternative tunes of the time, as we heard snatches of conversations referencing the creators and the artworks on display. One unique characteristic of this exhibition was how it exclusively drew out a unique millennial class to the scene. Showing that young people also appreciate art.
Forced to reexamine, with Adeoluwa Oluwajoba’s art on rigid social classifications of gender.
-on waiting/letters to him
What originally seemed to me as the evolution of a male character from afar, upon closer examination turned out to be adeoluwa oluwajoba‘s take on the human body and its relationship with contemporary space especially in the African context. Embedded in these paintings are written texts by adeoluwa oluwajoba & D.W Gotshalk, inspired by the work and writings of Susan Sontag, and Cameroonian philosopher and political theorist Achille Mbembe, incorporating text from great black-American writer James Balwin. Standing in front of adeoluwa oluwajoba paintings jolts two sensibilities; the ethereal and the thought-provoking. It draws the observer to view the works in the context of the inserted text as well as the aesthetically amusing nude characters that are accentuated occasionally with petals.
“What will a child become?” through the lens of Aadesokan
Also producing a grounding experience for me was the photography work of Aadesokan. The artist began this project in 2017 when he indulged in a self racioninational inquest. The photography is executed primarily by a way of headshot silhouettes, having interventions of the color purple in disconcerted arcs or circular & triangular shapes. In this series, Aadesokan attempts to capture the growth of a male child, in a quest to unravel the question of “what does it take to birth a man?” as he approaches adulthood. A question faced by many who find themselves attempting to fulfil the expectations that “real life” sets in front of them. This theme relates to personal inquiries that the artist himself has struggled with, and he portrays these endless thoughts with textured Venn circles that arc on to each other in an implacable cycle.
Lost in Phillip Fagbeyiro’s Post Future Art
-into the posthuman future
As I approached the upper floor of AAF, I encounter the seemingly galactic in the digital illustrations of Phillip Fagbeyiro. It’d be more appropriate to describe his digital renditions of the world in his words “visual approximations of a post-human world”. Phillip brings this otherworldly characters home, as they are set in scenes that are “down to earth”, however the characters in Phillip’s earth portray that they have been mutated in a cataclysmic event. In one fascinating canvas, we see a colossal that’s almost rendered inanimate by a myriad of scrolls and books bearing symbols and text from a fictional world. On another canvas, the scene is a futuristic Lagos, but one not too evolved for the yellow buses and the street umbrella stalls. Here, two men casually sit on a slab, right beside a self-operating LAWMA machine as it goes about vacuuming the befouled city.
Who doesn’t fear ageing? Kamnelechkwu Obasi’s take.
To be conveniently clueful about the moods and emotions represented in Kachi’s moving stills and film installation, one must have had to see the film well over one time. Set in a dark room, the video installation prompts one for a new audio-visual experience. The theme for her installation romanced the concept of ageing. A theme she is in fact weary of. In one captivating scene, an old Igbo woman tries meticulously, to accentuate her looks with a scarf. On another frame, it’s a young boy whose picture must have been taken under the exposure of intense African sun. His facial expression is however short of effulgent, as he contorts his facial muscles to better adapt to the sun’s intensity. This makes me think further about the scorching sun in tropical Africa, and how we are constantly found squeezing our faces in response. Does this accelerate wrinkled faces?
Lest I forget to mention, in what seemed to be the first scene of this installation, we see 2 figures – I suppose friends – framed in front of an ocean. They begin to grow adrift in this frame. I can’t uphold that my interpretation mirrors the mental posture of the artist. However, what I see is a significant signature on the theme of friends, who in space and overtime are falling out of favor with each other.
Ray Isibor’s Afrofuturistic art will tinker with your imagination.
If you are familiar with the culture of Lagos, Nigeria and Africa as a whole, the symbols and patterns that Ray uses in his mixed media work would at the very least draw you in to examine further. And if you look just long enough, you might begin to feel a conjuring effect. Almost as though the Intricate lines, shapes and symbols have been animated with a spirit of their own. Ray goes through a laborious process to produce his art, first putting pen and ink to paper, before going on to process them digitally, after which he then layers the prints with acrylic, further reinforcing the art with a certain dynamism. Looking into anyone of his canvas is a journey, one you embark on, navigating the pertinent themes of religion, gender, identity and self-reflection. These themes are often interwoven in each of the pieces he displayed.
Into the sound art of Yinka Bernie
It took me going back a second time to properly realize my error the first day in not appropriately encountering the art of Yinka Bernie. I had walked into this room without much expectation as I didn’t see any canvas or installation adorning the walls. My bad, the experience was meant to be completely auditory. Yinka’s sound art had so much synced with the atmosphere you nearly forgot it was part of the exhibition. An experience that even I, have to report from the witness of memory. This leaves me with a curiosity to further explore the offerings of the sound designer.
Several kudos to the Curator Ugochukwu Emeberiodo and AAF for putting together such a thrilling show. This exhibition is a true testament to my notion that Lagos, Nigeria and Africa are yet to fully uncover and appreciate how the millennial generation confronts, interacts, and interprets art in their time.