Our "Blank Canvas" exhibition was about giving the same amount of wall space to 7 different artists and give them complete freedom of expression. Three artists from Benin - Dominique Zinkpe, Tchif, Gerard Quenum - and 4 artists from Nigeria - Victor Ehikhamenor, Uche Uzorka, Obinna Makata, Uchay Joel Chima - presented their works during this exhibition, each having their very own style. The common theme of the exhibition was to allow the artist to do what they do best: express themselves through art. Our job was to showcase it.
Uche Uzorka was born in 1974 in Delta State, Nigeria. Uzorka graduated in 2001 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, majoring in painting. Uzorka’s practice incorporates painting, collage, cutting and pasting, charcoal, and ink drawing in an examination of processes of urban street culture.
A self taught artist, Tchif took part in many exhibitions and has been invited worldwide to present his work (Brasil, Holland, France, germany, Belgium, Portugal…). The National Museum of Africa Art of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, selected him for one of its largest exhibitions organized around the ''Earth Matters''contemporary african art for a full year.
He is one of this generation's artist who plays a great part in the world of contemporary art. Tchif has always been painting. He throws himself into creation in an instinctive, emotional, sensual way. His hand is his favorite tool. Although matter and colour are at the heart of his paintings, he is not limited to this technic.
First of all, I try to use a collection of various African textile to develop a style which I call "AFRICAN TEST STYLE". This series of works deals with the impact of excessive acquisition of material things in the contemporary African society. A period where the sustenance of everything African is facing a big challenge of test of time - things like language, social life, fashion, Religion etc. The obsession of consuming not just products but also a "life style" is something that bothers me not just as an African but also as an Artist.
In tackling this problem, I try to look into the social, economic, and political implications of consuming without producing. In doing this, I use the ostentatious nature of the fashion industry in Lagos state as a case study.
In most of my works there is no dichotomy between the real and the spiritual; they are almost one and the same. When you look closely at my art you see various human facial expressions and forms of life. At first glance they appear to be abstract, until you spend enough time and the figures invite you into their own lives. Similarly, when I draw on a newspaper, invitation or postcard, what first appears to be an obfuscation of the original turns out to be a transformation into something new. Is that magical, is that real? The question is usually left to the viewer to ascertain.
Ibeji in Nigeria
Hoho in Benin
Vénanvi in Togo and Ghana
Are figurines following a traditional belief and practice - that of the cult of twins.
The physical elegance and the stories that embody these little beings pushed me to develop the concept of the Gemini. Between my hands, new shapes are born; starting from sculptures and creating others are creative explorations that lead to a universe that is profoundly contemporary.
One of the most compelling features of Gérard’s work is his examination of the concept of history. The dolls are steeped in their own particular histories, in and out of Africa, histories which draw them close and link them inextricably with the people who made, loved, used and discarded them over the years. They animate the objects to which they are attached: hoes, drums, mortars for pounding fufu – even the staff of a babalawo or diviner over there. Like the simple figurines, bocio, used by the babalawo for centuries, Gérard’s work ensures that these objects, like the living fabric of society which they represent – WILL NEVER DIE.
From Chris Spring’s talk at the opening of Gérard Quenum exhibition.
(October Gallery – London - 19th Oct. 2012)
Uchay Joel Chima
Every human contains a goldmine of ceaseless potential. But while some live with the awareness of what they contain, many never discover theirs and are lost in the crowd.
With all the focus on the oil wells in Niger Delta, the much needed investment in manpower development is still not far fetched. And with us living in an era where many jobs are being automated, the consequences are dire. We have seen our school system failing for inadequate funding and lack of consensus as to how to prepare the next generation for the world they will inherit. When the people are empowered, great opportunities come together and the 'Giant' ceases to walk on clutches. Igwebuike!