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From wilderness, Olisa returns with Efforts

By Japhet Alakam

AFTER his last exhibition in 2009 and the unfortunate incident that happened to him, (the assassination of his good friend and Curator of that exhibition), Anambra state born artist, Olisa Nwadiogbu embarked on what could be described as a wilderness journey. But last month, Olisa announced his return from the wilderness with a solo exhibition titled Efforts. The exhibition which is his fourth solo opened at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos State.


The exhibition which featured 47 works could be called a collection of the artist’s “experiences and travails before; during and on the way from the wilderness journey.”

According to the Lagos based painter and bronze caster, “there is nothing one can get in life without making efforts. If you have all the talents in the world, without making efforts you will not make any success”, so the exhibition is part of his efforts hence the title.

Walls of the exhibition

Some of the works include; Obiechina, Peace in our hands; Agbalanze; Heritage; Onye Ichie na nwayi; Idia; Obinamili; Kolo Mentality; Omuluzua; Last Super; New Mother etc. A look at the works which were displayed in all the walls of the exhibition hall, reveals that they are in three broad categories. First, there are the original engravings on tiles mounted on panels. Then, there are the ones on acrylic on canvas and mixed media on canvas. Lastly, there are the mixed media with bottle tops and cans works.

“After some years of creating large pictures in oil and water colour, I felt the need to use original engravings starting from 1993 to explore a new and deeper direction in my artistic journey,” he explained. “Interestingly, my exploration followed the encounter with Edwin Inyang, who was then an informal student of Bruce Onabrekpeya School of art.

“Although I have always worked with foils using engraved panels as master plates, numerous years of deep interest in engravings has crystallized into a peculiar technique and new art mission and vision.”

These works, which were featured at the exhibition, started as preliminary sketches on pieces of paper and then later transferred to the lino, board or even tiles mounted on panels. “The images are engraved out with the help of engraving tools which are manually operated. Colours were introduced on the engraved patterns to provide contrast to the image.

“Ordinarily, patinas deployed in flat engravings give the work a deep illusion with three dimensional effects that create the feeling of weight and objectivity.”

The body of works in the second category of the exhibition are contrived with acrylic, oil, enamel, and spray paint on canvas. “The items are mostly derived from my past figurative works. In this body of works, playfulness and spontaneity remain central in my message.

“Through drips paint, scratches and super-imposes paint on canvas, my works also task all to appreciate the pure and undiluted abstract nature of art.”

In the third category, everyday objects such as bottle caps, plastic bottle and cans, horns, dolls, jigida, raffia, disc, seed and wire are repurposed on a mixed media platform. With these mediums, the artist hopes to draw the viewers’ attention “to the increasing and difficult challenges of our environment and the quality of life in a contemporary era.”

On why some of the works are titled in Igbo,Nwadiogbu said, from the culture I came from we are very traditional people, we want to speak our own language not English. In Igbo every name has a meaning we don’t just call something a name just like that. This is also an affirmation of his African roots and identity. “As an African that has succeeded in emancipating himself from the vestiges of cultural imperialism, the works exhibited attest to my African root, especially in the culture and tradition of ancient Onitsha Kingdom, uli nsibidi signs and symbols, religious rituals to mention but a few.”

This is revealed in the piece, Kolo mentality, which is a clarion call to Africans to return to their roots and see themselves as good. “We, Africans are fascinated with anything oyibo, we have our own good things we do better than them , but once they bring their own, we believe that their own is superior and abandon our own, that is colonial mentality”. He added.

The exhibition, draws the osmotic influences from his visits to galleries as well as from his participation in several art workshops, seminars, salons and exhibitions inform this exhibition.


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