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By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor

It’s not for lack of creative strength that Wallace Ejoh waited for twenty years after graduation before having his first solo art exhibition.

The artist, whose strokes on canvas belong in the impressionism texture has been creating quite a lot of paintings in diverse styles and techniques while waiting for what he described as the right time to show his works to the public.

 Titled “Impressions De Novo”, Ejoh’s debut solo art exhibition shows from May 21-30, 2022 at Signature Beyond Art Gallery, 107, Awolowo Road Ikoyi Lagos. The exhibition brings into a single space the artist’s rich experience in dual practice of studio and teaching art across some higher institutions in Nigeria, which he said generated his fresh styles and technique of impressionism art.

 “This exhibition is titled ‘impressions de Novo’, meaning ‘Impressions Anew, ‘Ejoh explained. “Here, one can see that there has been a shift in my colour pallet.” He brought the analogy of inner strength and spirituality that says ‘when the inner spirit has liberation, then inspiration is born.’  This much he disclosed, inspires the freshness in his new body of work. “Moving my studio, the simple plan studio, from Apapa commercial area to Ikorodu town, afforded me an atmosphere of serenity and peace of mind, which resonates in these new body of work.” Ejoh stated.

Twenty years of post-graduate for a debut solo art exhibition is no doubt a long time in the career of any artist. “After graduation from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, I have been involved in teaching fine art and mentoring students from various art schools in Nigeria, for free as a volunteer.” He added that teaching art for free “gives me joy and a sense of fulfilment when I see my students become successful artists in the industry.” In a country such as Nigeria that is perennially displaying dearth of good leaders, across strata if life, Ejoh argued that “the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”

 Ejoh recalled how passionate he has been about imparting art knowledge onto others. “Despite my dedication to studio practice, the most significant thing I have done beyond painting is teaching. I started teaching art students in 2002.

The first student that came to me then was Solomon Omogboye, who is now based in South Africa. Since that time till now, I keep accepting students for internship. I have trained more than 100 students. At the Universal Studios of Arts (USA), National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos where I was an instructor, they often get students as many as 80 (from various higher institutions of learning), at a given period. So, I must have trained not less than 100 students.”

 In analysing the theme of the exhibition, Ejoh’s colleague and writer, Mufu Onifade said: “As aptly captured, ‘Impressions de Novo’ is the title of Wallace Ejoh’s first ever solo art exhibition held at the Signature Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos. “De Novo is a Latin word meaning anew, from the new, afresh, again or from beginning,” Onifade wrote in the catalogue of the exhibition in a piece titled New Beginning. “What Ejoh is expected to serve his patrons and collectors on this show are impressionistic paintings laced with fresh ideas and refreshing creativity.” Onifade noted that in Ejoh’s art, “some level of new- ness has been introduced to his approach to painting.” He examined how Ejoh’s “new signature is awash with trends and tastes absolutely different from past works.”

Excerpts from Onifade’s review of Impressions De Novo; “The paintings on display (15 in number) cover a period between 2021 and 2022 when Ejoh breathed a fresh air as he survived the Covid-19 pandemic that held the world spellbound and kept the globe at a standstill. As the world froze in panic, all sectors also collapsed, but the restless artist in Ejoh did not freeze, neither did it abate. Rather, art began to agitate in his temporarily frozen mind. Michelangelo Buonaroti said, “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start work. It is already there. I just have to chisel away the superfluous material” (Good Reads).

Like Michelangelo who freed human figures from blocks or marble, Ejoh saw new ideas and fresh creativity struggling to free themselves from his fertile mind. He felt the inspiration to free them, and had to embark on a journey of experiments that berthed these new works. He says, “The hunger to hit the public with works of unusual flavour, carved in the mould of impressive brush strokes, overwhelmed me.

 “In the past, Ejoh had developed himself into producing a hunk of impressionistic paintings (using a technique and style that accommodated discordant colours), which had influenced quite a number of young artists. In their large number, they copied or appropriated Ejoh’s works and brazenly flooded the internet with them! The past period provided Ejoh with a flourishing career that defined him as an artist in constant search of truth, and stumbling on unfolding petals.

Overtime, he practiced extensively, devised old and new styles that exulted in impressions. Such impressions never allowed for blending of colours on the canvas. Rather he allowed distinctive brush movements that distinguishes each stroke from another, but when the viewer squints his eyes, all the colours blend brilliantly in his eyes. This approach, which is one of the characteristics of the works of painters like Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, changed the course of history in art in the 19th century (Editors:2018).”

Among Ejoh’s past group exhibitions were ‘Colours, Moods and Feelings.’ in 2005; and ‘Essence’, in 2021, at Alexis Galleries, Victoria Island, Lagos.

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