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Jonahan’s visual approach to inactivity in Nigeria

By Prisca Sam-Duru
After his first solo exhibition nine years ago, one of Nigeria‘s foremost master Pastel artist,  Jefferson Jonahan last week came back with his second solo exhibition tagged State of Inertia.

The exhibition  which was attended by many art collectors,  and other lovers of art including  renowned Art icon, Bruce Onobrakpeya was held at the  Omenka Gallery Ikoyi, Lagos.

Ordinarily, one will not be moved by the works that were displayed at the gallery on a first look as the multiple colours that always grace many exhibitions were missing but a closer look at the works shows the level of maturity of the artist as the works speak for themselves.

State of Inertia as the name implies was more than an exhibition of works of art but a figurative expression of the artists’ ingenuity. The exhibition suggests, if not a conscious response to what can be described as man’s subconscious nature, his physical absent-mindedness in sleep and his emotional disposition in a typical realm of inactivity.

The paintings which were purely in black and white is a visual exhibition of artistic works of the Auchi trained painter’s style which he employed to show the  level of decadence in the country.

It featured about 24 works in pastel  that were carefully framed in different sizes to meet the collector’s taste. An action the artist said was informed by the need  to come out with something new and great.

Through the body of works, the artist presented a platform for the audience to engage with his works as he captures  man in a state of inactivity while unconsciously exhibiting emotions that are personal, social, or economic.

Some of the works displayed include:  Minimum Wage,Bitter Sweet Memories, Time na Money, Natures call,, Fragments,, The Hopeful, State of Inertia,The Thinker, Detail of Baba Don,  Eclipsed etc. But one work that captures the attention of many of the viewers was the piece titled Natures Call, a piece that depicts a Policeman sleeping with his rifle while on duty.

Though sleep is a natures call, what baffles many is when a security man does that while on duty.   It shows the state of security in the country today where it is at the lowest ebb and an indication that something is wrong somewhere.

Jonahan said that “the word Inertia actually has to do with a state of inactivity when the body is motionless but, I decided to create a body of work that deals with man’s subconscious nature, his physical absent-mindedness in sleep and his emotional disposition in a typical realm of inactivity”.

aim is to impact audiences by creating awareness with artful pictorial montages of realistic happenings, which individually, may have been unconsciously exhibited in different facets of their lives.”

Continuing, he said “this is a study of figures in repose, form and character. They are of different categories of individuals from various disciplines of life, irrespective of this, they depicted in various states of subconsciousness. By juxtaposing their poses struck while asleep, the audience engages with their emotions and reactions…”


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