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Between Expansion of Time and eternal images

By Prisca Sam-Duru

We are always late but arrive when expected.” These are the words of multiple award winning artist, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, which sums up the  subject of Expansion of Time, an exhibition of 33 paintings and a mixed media installation that opened the 2017 art season at Temple Muse, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The works, adorning the walls of Temple Muse, are creations of Ogunji and Raoul Olawale Da Silva, two multi-ethnic contemporary artists, artistically exploring connections, history, improvisational flow and most importantly, the concept of time.

Expansion of Time, curated by SMO Contemporary Art which is sponsored by UBS, the Swiss International bank and Luxury House Moet Hennessey, runs till April 28th, 2017.

The two Nigerian artists in the diaspora decided few years ago to explore possibilities in their home land – Nigeria.

Ogunji, a recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, spent her formative years in the US. She showcases stunning works titled Follow the Sun, 8 Ife and Orchids, Catch a Breathe, You must Learn to Walk on Water etc., that portray deeper meanings in cases of identity, feminism and cross continental memories. Her love for Africa is expressed in hand-stitched drawings, made on very delicate architectural trace paper through which she references the daily interactions and frequencies that occur in the city of Lagos, drawing on dreams, reveries and imagination.

She uses strong iconic symbols of African civilisation such as the Ife head sculptures which are inserted into modern conversations and spaces, thereby connecting the past and present.

Raoul, on the other hand, prefers to express his creative voice through works that are inspired by his passion for surfing, skateboarding and environmental activism. With a conscious abandonment to intuition, “Raoul’s experiments with powerful brush strokes, attempts to defy the passage of time through depiction of flashes from memories and dreams presented on paper, canvas and skateboards.

The powerful and colorful abstract paintings on paper and canvas are perfect counter-point to Ogunji’s delicate, small and precise drawings. Raoul’s intricate and symbolic works have a truly universal appeal, making him one of Nigeria’s most exciting contemporary abstract painter.” Interestingly, his works are all untitled, giving viewers  the freedom to interprete each work according to how it appeal to them.

In line with this, the curator of the exhibition, Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, said “Expansion of Time tells their story from the outside, looking in: two creative souls exploring, seeking, sometimes even battling, to come to terms with cultural anomalies and political incongruity – always attempting to rise above the clutter, constant hum, noise, and over-saturated “Eko-for- Show.”

“My works are the result of interchanging factors such as intuitive and impulsive approaches, set against reflection and exploration. This form of encountering through the creative act engages improvisational awareness and reflexive sensibility,” Raoul stated, explaining that the introduction of the skateboards emanated from his decision to “repurpose these Skateboards as objects, and use their form, shape and surface for painting, drawing, collage assemblage, installation and performance….There is a precision that manifests when the skateboard becomes an extension of the skater’s extremities. Images are captured as one seemingly flies by. The soul of skateboarding transcends to a surface for projection of identity into spaces of observation, interaction and reflection. I see the world as a moving canvas and the skateboard as a body of resonance.”

“My obsession with the Ife head first came from a very aesthetic experience of just feeling like this. It’s so beautiful”, Ogunji said about the Ife head which has become a recurring feature in her works. She added that “Thinking about time travel and my own cosmology and spirituality and religious systems, and this idea of reincarnation or return, or if you believe in the significance of biology and ancestral family, I had these questions: are those souls returning to the world? The drawings tend to be more about black people.

Most of the pieces according to Ogunji were made when there was a lot of shooting of black people in the US. Rather than dwell on the tragedy, she decided to think about the power of transcending. “This particular one, you must learn to walk on water, is really about being super human, which is unfortunate but true if you understand the power of it. You can jump over the limitations of so called reality.” She explains.

While Catch Your Breath also references the murder in the US where the police suffocated Eric Garner, Follow the Sun, shows a lot of things going on in Ogunji’s mind. “When I was making the lines, I realised that the lines were similar to lines in some of my drawings I made 8 years ago, which I thought was so cool.”



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