By Chukwuma Ajakah

The Adeline Gallery, TAG, Ilupeju, Lagos, is currently showcasing the works of some young African artists. At a press briefing on Saturday, June 26, the founder of the gallery, Dele Awosika, said the inaugural exhibition tagged “Fresh Voices” will run till Saturday, July 10, 2021.

Subtitled, “The First Murmur”, Fresh Voices features talented artists whose works address contemporary societal issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and other socio-cultural problems.

Visual artists participating at the event include Ajibo Ikechukwu, Grace Ighavbota, Omon Sophia Igbinovia, Paul Ayihawu, Miriam Olubunmi Aliyu and Alawode Azeez.

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Ajibo Ikechukwu, whose works echo the central theme of love will be showcasing the following titles: Lock Down Dialogue (2020), House on the Rocks 3 (2021), My Mona Lisa, aka Jumoke (2020), Girl with the Flower (2021) and The Savior (2020). Girl with the Flower expresses romantic love while Passion of Christ portrays God’s love for the world that culminated in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Lock Down Dialogue depicts two African ladies, discussing the Coronavirus pandemic and its far-reaching implications. The artist revealed that “The painting was inspired by the socio-economic and cultural impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the world…”

Another of his work, House on the Rock 3, inspired by the beautiful scenery in Jos City, Nigeria is reminiscent of the artist’s memories of life in the famous city. My Mona Lisa (Jumoke)-an artistic impression, celebrating his beautiful wife, Jumoke and her rich Yoruba cultural heritage, is a piece inspired by Leonardo Davinci’s famous masterpiece of the same title.  Speaking on her brand and motivation, soft spoken Grace Ighavbota, says: “Art for me is a way of, a tool for self-expression, a voice of reasoning and a pivot on which culture rotates. I document priceless events happening around me in very expressive ways, using a mix of representational and expressionism forms of art. I advocate for or against the happenings of the around me which mostly boils down to the need for survival.” Grace’s works which are all in oil on canvas include the following: The Blue Scarf (2021), Covered (2020), Solace (2020), Yellow Butterfly (2019) and What Next II (2020).

Miriam Olubunmi Aliyu whose works include Extraordinary Woman 1 (2021), Extraordinary Woman II (2021) and Untitled (2021), employs a unique style, involving a combination of unique processes and materials such as acrylic on canvas, charcoal dust, burnt paper and magazines.  The 100-level student of the Department of Fine Arts, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, reveals that her paintings explore societal issues that would have been otherwise neglected: “My work focuses on generating interest where we may otherwise have been uninterested. It is my desire to fan up hope, freedom, love and peace in the heart of my audience. I believe that art is a strong reformation tool that highlights anomalies in a society and a medium of positive change.” 

Paul Ayihawu whose medium consists of charcoal, acrylic and oil on canvas will be exhibiting three paintings produced between 2020 and 2021: Black Lisa, Soul Sisters and Wura. With Kehinde Wiley and Kerry James Marshall as role models, the self-taught Nigerian/Beninese artist portrays figures that reflect poise, elegance and iconic postures. His artworks challenge contemporary societal issues and celebrate Africa’s rich cultural heritage. Speaking on each of the artworks, he said: “Black Lisa was inspired by the re-examination of the history in the time of colonialism in Nigeria. During that time the colonialists presented their ideas and culture as superior to those of Africa. Africans embraced the foreign culture and relegated theirs to the background.”  According to the artist, Wura is inspired by the painting of an old master titled, “The lady with a pearl earring”.

Most of Paul’s works highlight the worldview of Africans, especially the Yoruba. For instance, the cultural ideation about the ideal woman is captured in Wura of which the artist enthused: “The lady in the painting is in her prime, showing all the feminine virtues depicted by her body language. This is to re-emphasize the virtue I have seen in my mother and the popular saying in Yoruba land ‘Iya ni Wura’ which means Mother is Gold.”  The Soul Sisters, a 120cm x 160 cm painting, portrays the concept of duality ascribed to Orisha Ibeji, the Yoruba god of twins symbolically represented by two carved images backing each other. Paul asserts that “The two soul sisters share a fascinating reality and an unbreakable bond that transcends time and space.”

Omon Sophia Igbinovia’s three entries “Blinded No More I”, “Blinded No More II” and “Blinded No More III” are serialized under the subtitle “Pandemic Series”. The quintessential artist who holds a Higher National Diploma in Computer Graphics from Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria, has featured in 28 art exhibitions within and outside Nigeria from 2010 till date.  These include her participation in Auchi Art Expo, organized by School of Art and Design Gallery, Federal Polytechnic Auchi (2010), Nigerian/ American Exhibition, Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos (2012), Faces and Phases, Terra Kulture, Lagos (2016), Art-titude,  FEAAN South West Zone, Yaba Colllege of Technology (2017), Insight, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, USA(2019) and Choose to Challenge (International Women Day), China Cultural Centre, Abuja, Nigeria (2021). Omon Sophia’s current work is dedicated to industrious women, emblematically represented by her mother: “My mother is a great source of inspiration to me…My journey in life cannot be complete without an acknowledgement of the impactful role she played in my life. My current body of work celebrates all hardworking women and serves as a source of inspiration to young girls …”

Engaging acrylic on canvas as his medium, Alawode Azeez explores the theme of natural and exaggerated beauty through the realistic painting of four culturally symbolic images appropriately titled: Beauty (2020), Fulani Boy (2019), Ojuloge 1 (2018) and Sisi Eko III (2021). Alowode’s works revolve around the phenomenal “African Woman” and portray poise, elegance, sophistication and fashion. The embedded attributes are realized through the four iconic portraits which the artist masterfully stylizes with dominant physical features such as broad nose, full lips, wide round eyes, large eyeballs, attractive skin complexion, make-up and dressing.

Art connoisseur and veteran art educator, Dr. Kunle Adeyemi, former Dean, School of Art, Design and Printing, Yaba College of Technology, commended the organizers for primarily targeting younger artists in the inaugural exhibition, saying that the focus has been on the older generation and master artists, but by providing the opportunity for the budding talents to exhibit their works, the promoters are beaming the light in the right direction because the new generation is groomed to take over from the old.  Adeyemi who was a guest at the official opening of the exhibition also remarked: “This is a typical example of what a good art gallery should be. It presents the serenity that art enjoys.  When a collector walks in here, he listens through the art, watches the art and enjoys the art without being distracted. I am happy that the younger artists are the first targets.”

Most of the exhibiting artists are inspired by happenings in their surroundings and the subject matters of their expressionist paintings focus on socio-cultural and contemporary issues that resonate with art enthusiasts.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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