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From Ambivalence : freedom song

By McPhilips Nwachukwu
ART, says, Paul Cezainne is” a priesthood and only the pure in heart can enter it.” It is perhaps as a result of the priestly nature of artistic and creative process, which requires even from the creator of art an initiatory tutelage that makes the study and appreciation of works of some genuine artists a Herculean task.

Ironically too, it is in the domain of this ordained creative path that the greatness of art, and an artistic creation, which are faithful to aesthetic unity, composition, originality and thematic preoccupation lies.

Surprisingly, many of the works that pass for artistic creations are works that can not in any way be located within Cezanne’s theoretical assumptions and therefore are bereft of such sublimity that is the hallmark of artistic excellence.

*Odu Mortar, 74cm (2011)

It is therefore this vision of achieving artistic excellence, such as outlined above that the exhibition titled, Ambivalence promises to give the viewing public, as it opens to the public tomorrow.

Ambivalence described by  Chike Nwagbogu, Creative Director of Nimbus Art Gallery, Lagos  as “endotellic” is a solo exhibition  of painting , sculpture and installation by one of Nigeria’s finest multimedia and experimental artists and one of the best produced by the Federal Polytechnic Auchi Art School, Emmah Mbanefo.

Scheduled to open at the Nimbus Art Gallery, Falomo Ikoyi under the distinguished chairmanship of Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty,Agbogidi Nnaemeka Achebe, the visual feast will last till 6th May.

Showcasing about 40 works  done in different media, “ambivalence”  represents  an attempt by the artist to  employing the vehicle of visual canvass to confronting issues that bother on private and communal freedom.

By so doing , Mbanefo sets himself at the task of looking into the  foundational problems of existence in their binary terms. For him, the dual nature of things is very important in seeking meaning and results from existential challenges.

It is this task that  confronts the viewer as  he cherishes Mbanefo’s works, which  strive to remain faithful to  the etiquettes of natural synthesis by creatively employing cultural symbols, motifs and ethos that engage socio-political and religio-economic  issues.

“Ambivalence” , according to the artist, “ is premised on the understanding that in all things, there is a foundation, one which is predetermined and beyond control. However, the singular foundation is challenged, pushed and pulled as we fight to define ourselves.”

Continuing, headed that , “ Ambivalence is the search for the good, the spirit of humanity in exploring ambivalence, the work explores, and sifts through humanity, interrogating emotions-strong feelings.”

Deriving from  Mbanefo’s artistic philosophy, the works are steeped in foundational Igbo cosmological ethos and culture  and  explore  artistic freedom  in an effort to  promote culture and aesthetic patriotism.

Some of the works like Ajie,  a term, which in some places go for a traditional title and in other areas, is a greeting type and Odu are used to explore aesthetic originality, cultural beauty and excellence.

Through the media of wood, painting, installation and metal, the viewer is not only brought to  appreciate the rich culture and flamboyant heritage of Onitsha Igbo, which are embedded in such works like;  odu, ifenkili, ifejioku and Nma Ofeke, but, is also availed the opportunity of  reading with fascinating interest the thread of influences of  such visual masters like Ben Enwonwu, Bruce Onabrakpeya and Ben Osawe, whose presence smell strongly in the artist’s rendering of his composition, but does not in any way devalue his own strong sense of creative originality.

Like a good pupil, Mbanefo’s  works pay abiding homage to his master influencers, but in their own terms, they wear new voices with fresh facial embellishments that stand them out as works of a new original master.


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