Performers on stage

Yinka Olatunbosun

Temple Muse, the home of creative expressions, had its doors thrown open for the first time this year to welcome art collectors into a wealth of new offerings made possible by two multi-ethnic contemporary artists. In its tradition, the show is a product of an enduring collaboration with SMO Contemporary Arts and has the title, “Expansion of Time”.

The title might have been inspired by this line: we are always late but arrive when expected. It is a peculiar situation in Lagos when space and time are submerged in daily mannerisms and experiences of which the artists had been a keen observer.

A preview of the show led the viewer to a very animated creative space, parading 33 paintings and one mixed media installation by Wura Natasha-Ogunji and Raoul Olawale Da Silva. Both are artists in diaspora who returned to their home country some years ago to explore their roots in their artistry.

For Ogunji who lives in the United States and Nigeria, it is quite natural for her works to reflect the themes of identity, feminism and some introspections. Having a knack for minimalism in this duo exhibition, Ogunji predominantly features her hand-stitched drawings made on architectural tracepaper, which is a very delicate technique by the way.

A good number of her works show the Ife head, a global cultural phenomenon which the African art takes credit for. Ogunji explained her intention for revoking our cultural symbols in her thread drawings.

“I often use this image to reaffirm the idea that history is always present and that we can also be our own monuments, markers and remembrances. With Catch Your Breath and Feel the Sun, I begin to think about what is necessary to survive in the world, to find beauty, power, joy-not as a kind of spiritual redemptn and escape but as a lived and felt philosophy of life that perhaps shifts the word beyond the tragic to activate the impossible,” she remarked in her artist statement.

Ogunji whose works include performance art and videos is a recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and has received grants from The Pollock-Kraser Foundation; The Dallas Museum of Art and the Idea Fund. She revealed also that the vacuum in the drawings provides the reader with a space to reflect on each piece and its message.

Her counterpart, Olawale Da Silva inadvertently created a metaphorical body of works in his collection which is strongly inspired by surfing, skateboarding and environmental activism. His defiance of the passage of time is exhibited in his memorabilia. Wornout, those skateboards were once very pivotal in his youthful lifestyle of snow and skate boarding. Though the boards might have seen better days, they are a reservoir of his memories and dreams. They are brought to life with drip paintings as the vehicle to fly across space just as Ogunji’s two-dimensional characters. In addition, skateboards are always evolving and never grows old.

Da Silva revealed that he works in a chaotic manner, sometimes working on five paintings simultaneously to sustain the flow of creative energy that runs through his untitled works which may also appear in series. Though his first languages include Swiss and German, his visual language is lucid in terms of recurring themes.

“My works are the result of interchanging factors such as intuitive and impulsive approaches, set against reflective and exploration. This form of encountering through  the creative act engages improvisational awareness and reflexive sensibility,” he declared in his artist statement.

Da Silva’s influences in the art can be traced to the National Museum summer classes with a contemporary such as Alex Nwokolo; a four year intensive apprenticeship in furniture design and cabinet making in Switzerland which was followed by four years at University of Applied Arts in Luceme, Switzerland. His series which he created using oil, crayon and coffee came by accident. Having observed that colour pattern made by a dripping coffee mug on a breakfast table mat, he followed his nose in experimenting with coffee in his paintings.

The exhibition’s curator, Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago described the show as one that tells the artists’ stories  as they come to terms with cultural anomalies and political incongruity. In his remark, the CEO, Temple Muse, Avinash Wadhwani praised the unique perspective of the artists, referring to their artistic effort as “avant-garde”.

The show which runs till April 28 is sponsored by UBS, the Swiss International bank and Most Hennessey.