Chinze explaining her works during the opening of her latest exhibition titled ‘Beyond the Barriers’.
By Prisca Sam-Duru
Those who are familiar with Chinze Ojobo’s art will agree it’s usually bright and colourful. Chinze loves and does colours magnificently, though she claims to have now toned it down. However, her ongoing exhibition; ‘Beyond The Barriers’, where she is displaying over one hundred stunning pieces, says a lot about how she’s been consistent in not just blowing her viewers’ minds with colours, but as well, how much she has owned her space in the international art community through her unique and innovative art forms.
As a phenomenal contemporary artist, Chinze has done over 40 solos and exhibited in over 70 group exhibitions globally.
The award winning artist, who got the African Achievers Award in 2018 as the African Creative Artist in the House of Commons UK, has her works also collected privately by foreign celebrities and international artistes as well as other eminent personalities.
‘Beyond the Barriers’ which opened on December 15, 2021 at The Address Homes, Banana Island, Lagos, with the support of Sterling Bank, continues throughout the festive season.
The body of work reflects the period the world was brought down to its knees by the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
It is also a manifestation of how much she has grown from one media of art to another. The thematic preoccupations of the artist, therefore, reflect the aftermath of the pandemic and how we can live above its impact.
“While stuck in the house during the pandemic, I kept working and you know, we listened to news which affected our thinking and our psych. All that are reflected in the works”, Chinze said.
“When Covid broke out in 2019, followed by the lockdown in early 2020, as an artist, all Chinze could do during that period, was to paint. But the materials were unavailable as markets were closed.
“People were going into depression and there was need for Chinze to continue to express herself through the only means she knows best, which is art, apart from prayer. So she began to experiment with found objects and a number of things due to unavailability of canvas”, Mr Anthony Ojobo, art collector and Chinze’s husband also explained.
According to him, “Along the line, she zeroed in on wood, birthing a medium she calls ‘Ute Osisi’, meaning a kind of mat made from wood. The pieces of art are produced such that they can be folded making them look like mats. With appropriate tools, she began to sculpt the woods into desired shapes and objects, painting with beautiful and bright colours. Chinze stands today in the country, as the only artist with this medium of art”.
The medium is novel and through it, the artist is able to carve out art pieces as large as 9ft by 6 foldable colourful paintings. No doubt, the pandemic came with a lot of challenges but in the case of Chinze, it led to experimentations that helped her rise beyond the barriers; though not without additional challenges.
“It’s stressful and sapping, it’s not easy but I keep moving because it’s unique and different. A lot of people are afraid to do it but I enjoy it because it’s a technique you can’t really predict how it will turn out”, she said.
Throwing more light on the medium, she said, “I worked with mixed media and all sorts of materials in this particular exhibition. I did mostly wood which I called Ute Osisi because the woods look like mats; they’re collapsible and light; basically, its acrylic on carved wood”.
‘Beyond the Darkness’, a large colourful piece, shows people trying to be happy despite the darkness looming due to spike in rate of kidnapping, killings, negative impact of the pandemic, terrible news of mishaps like the 21-storey building that collapsed recently.
“You have to rise up, be happy. That’s why in the art some are taking Selfie, while others are jumping, playing ball, reading and relaxing. So this period of Christmas we should try to relax and be happy”, the artist explained.
While ‘Life choices’- a painting with two female figures living different lifestyle, speaks to the need to make decisions favourable to you as a unique individual at this crucial period in history of mankind, ‘I Am Possible’, the first painting that welcomes guests, is an image of a psychedelic looking woman telling viewers that they can do all things with the help of God.
At the background in ‘I Am Possible’, are books, inspiring words and sentences that make the message explicit.
“A lot of people are losing faith in government, society and life itself. Rather than stay and wallow in pain or sorrow brought about by bad economy, violence, killings in the country as well as other negative things caused by the pandemic, tell yourself to get better by reading books; move with time and, learn to adapt to the new normal”, Chinze said while explaining the message behind ‘I Am Possible’.
‘Good thoughts’, ‘Mother’s Dream’, ‘The New Normal’, ‘Keep Learning’, ‘A Stitch in Time’, and ‘One Voice’- a series depicting women supporting each other, are some other titles in the exhibition.
Also, ‘Alone With God’, is an incredibly beautiful and colourful large art “which tells us that when you are with God, he begins to patch the pieces of your life together”.