By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor
From nostalgia of childhood to the dynamics of the virtual world, Emeka Ilechukwu captures his thoughts in visual language of painting and sculpture. An interaction with Ilechukwu recently exposed the beauty of being privileged to see an artist’s works ahead of presentation to the general public.
Ilechukwu’s art on canvas and in welded metal brings the duality, at different times, of the basic values of fine art, making the best application of materials in recalling the past as well as documenting subsisting changes of everyday people’s life. More importantly, the artist creates amazing art that speaks to the unfolding virtual race in socio-economic interactions.
Among his recent works is “Ndi Nne Mama”, a mixed media made from African teak and dated 2021, in which the artist recalls how a local Mothers’ Day event was celebrated in his primary school days. In figurative painting of relief on panels, “Ndi Nne Mama” depicts eight women, each with different fashion of either native or combined styles of Western and African textures. Adding to the beauty of the work is the elegance which the artist weaves around the women’s postures.
“During my primary school days, in the early 1980s, there was this beautiful tradition, which Christian mothers in our community exhibit annually,” Ilechukwu shares as part of his childhood. “Before each Mothers’ Day, these amazing women would mobilize themselves, buy all manner of gifts, mostly edible kinds, to give out in schools. It is part of the activities leading to the big day – Mothers’ Day.”
He recalled that as a child, he was one of those children who always looked forward to the Mothers’ Day event with excitement. “The day the mothers will finally drive into our school with their gifts unannounced to the pupils, it is over for the day in terms of academic activities. The buzz and the excitement their visit create cannot be described with words.”
Belonging to a generation that already grew into adolescent ahead of the virtual world of internet, Ilechukwu has the privilege to articulate his thoughts from the perspective of dual experience. This much he does in sculptures, specifically in a welded metal piece titled Enyimba-2 (Real and Virtual Worlds) dated 2022.
Ilechukwu’s “Enyimba” depicts an elephant that moves two globe objects, possibly representing the duality of real and virtual world. He notes how the gap between the “virtual world is fusing dramatically with the real world,” arguing that the days when Information Technology was seen as toys for the youths were over: “It is becoming so glaring that no one can do anything notable without the input of Information Technology.”
And what has elephant got to do with his thoughts in depicting the closing gaps between real and virtual worlds? “In this artwork, the elephant is a metaphor of structures and systems embracing the present realities of doing business; the fusing of the virtual world with the real world.”
He explains that the elephant is seen consciously lifting the virtual world, a sign of prominence and importance while preserving the link in-between. “It is intelligence and quick thinking to embrace and utilitilize all the advantages this new way of doing business affords us.”
Other recent works of Ilechukwu include Heartstrings (welded metal, height, width, dept – 80, 31, 30 inches) in which the artist makes a tribute to all the individuals that have made indelible marks in the hearts of those they love and who love them; “Gush of Goodies” (wood, 78 x 46 inches, dated 2022). The artist argues that it is important to intentionally develop one’s areas of strength and emotional intelligence to the point that whenever one is under pressure, the ‘Goodies’ will gush out.
Emeka Ilechukwu graduated with distinction as a sculptor from the Institute of Management and Technology Enugu in 1997. Born August 11, 1975 at Nnewi in Anambra state, he continues to create drawing, sculptures and paintings, which are informed largely from his inner visions and desires to solving creative problems. Through these modes of expressions, he addresses numerous socio-cultural and environmental concerns that affect him.
He explores diverse media in expressing his eclectic creative ideas, which are drawn from critical observation of everyday mundane things. His works are created to inspire hope and motivate courage. Emeka, as he likes to be called, dissects the opposing forces of life, such as light and darkness; good and evil; positives and negatives; he does this to tease out for his audience’s concrete mental imagery to ponder on. Part of his art ideology is creating visual statements that add aesthetic value to the world.
As an active artist, Ilechukwu has five solo exhibitions and 50 salons. He has participated in over thirteen group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Due to the uniqueness of his works, a number of collectors and art lovers around the world have them in their collection.
A Senior Partner of Emeka Ilechukwu & Associates, his art outfit creates and exhibits artworks globally, and also conduct mentoring programs for art students and young aspiring artists. He is married to Desola, a business partner. The marriage is blessed with four wonderful kids.