Rapper Mtrill...performing at the exhibition Bright with DJ Jimmy Jatt

A rare display of imagination pools visual and performing artists on one exciting platform. Nseobong Okon-Ekong reports

It is not every day that one find a house filled with exquisite pieces of art works and a flighty mood of cultured indulgence enhanced by the sounds of lovely music. Put it all together in a hospitality establishment with a global reputation for excellence like Renaissance Hotel, Ikeja and you cannot resist the pull to visit, at first. But once you are there, it is impossible to leave in a hurry.

On account of the two major promises- from Sylvester Aguddah’s Sylverscreen Productions-exhibition of unique art pieces and presentation of generous soul stirring music-the audience had more than they bargained for in the course of the four-day show under the broad theme: ‘Art on Canvas Meets Music Denim’.

Sylverscreen, a company that brings ideas to life, acquired the exhibition space in the hotel to put up a show once every two months. Aguddah who describes himself as a Collage Artist previously worked as a top marketing manager in some of Nigeria’s leading companies including, BAT, Procter and Gamble and Globacom, but he has put all that behind to concentrate on things like art, tours, photography and printing that fuel his passion.

As one who has a myriad of dispositions, Aguddah has no problem understanding creative people whose temperament allows a mixture of different personalities. This explains the assortment of characters and vocations during the four-day fair. He had previously exhibited his own works at the same venue, but this time, he was turning it over to two colleagues, Bright Igho and Ifeanyi Anene.

Each day ran its own course, but it largely featured the same staple: The 42 art pieces remained in their place like immobile trees in a forest with a steady stream of human beings wondering through this woodland of paintings, making a chatter from their comments and opinions. Like a well choreographed orchestra, this cacophony decreased and faded completely each time a performing artiste took centrestage; like the receding shriek of a flock of birds flying farther into the sky.

The attention could be on Cape Town, South Africa-based performance poet, Rez da Poet who had a way of taking the audience through high and low moods with his words and gesticulations. At another time, all eyes were on the soulful singers Xia and Chumah. But it was the Rapper Mtrill who moved the gathering with his song, ‘Aboh’ that never fails to stir an audience. As if under a robotic spell, everyone responds when Mtrill asks them to “clap, clap.” Of course, it doesn’t end there, from clapping they enter into a dance!

The music content at the exhibition was not just in the sounds of instruments and voices that floated in the air, much of the 23 pieces displayed by Bright revolved around musical themes. One was dedicated to the late great saxophonist, Groover Washington. It was fittingly titled, ‘Groover’s Sound’. Another honour was bestowed to a living legend through Bright’s creativity. It was in the form of a portrait of popular DJ Jimmy Jatt done with pieces of broken vinyl. There is ‘Afrobeat Currency’, which is not only a dedication to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti but projects an ambitious prophecy that one day, Fela’s image will be on Nigeria’s N5000 currency note!

Bright, better known as B Elect, boasts of a profile that presents him as a Jack of many trades. He is a writer, recording artiste and visual artist who presently hosts the uptown hip hop show, the Boom Bap lounge and an upcoming production company, Life Cafe. His style of art uses oil, acrylic and other elements like records, tapes and ultimately, jeans to create art that is functional deco for the home . He calls his style MusicDenim.

He is a graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka with a Bachelors Degree in Fine arts. He was a founding member of the highly acclaimed rap group Thorobreds who won a maiden Headies award for their smash hit ‘Streethop’ along with Illbliss, Elajoe and singer, Obiwon. He also released few Eps and an album ‘Hard Listeners’ which had some notable tracks and rap videos.

He has also worked in Branding and Advertising. His creative style fuses the elements of pop culture, with traditional painting styles, combining hues and shades to achieve daring concepts, creating a thin line between the functional and the abstract. This is his first show. His artistic style, a pop culture influence which he calls ‘Musicdenim’ is based on using elements of jeans material, old vinyls, cassette tapes and traditional media like acyrillic and oil on canvas. He is highly experimental, seeing art as art and then as functional; hence creating a fusion of art as furniture pieces or elements of home aesthetics. He mostly prefers blue hues to push home his blue jeans themed works. He uses the ruggedness of jeans as a metaphor for the resilient spirit of the Nigerian. To be sure, Bright’s works were not all about music and jeans, there were intensely seductive and intimate statements made through works like, ‘She Works to be an Object’. He also showed his concern for the needy by donating a work titled, ‘Displaced but not Misplaced’, to the World Wrapperman for auction. The proceeds will be deployed to comfort flood victims at a charity run by the Wrapperman.

His co-exhibitor, Ifeayi Anene uses colourful hues to create interesting portraits and landscapes in oil and other media. A graduate of Psychology from the University of Lagos, he now works as a visual artist. His art is highly influenced by activities in the society. He sees art as a mirror of society and tries to paint large vivid images of his environs, issues and situations that shape us as a people. He said, “I enjoy painting large images on various mixed media, with palate knifes and flat brushes telling my story has never been a hard one.”

A self-taught artist, this was Anene’s first exhibition too. He is better known as Omooba. His works are bold and captivating. The imagery strikes a familiar chord and arrests you, rooted to the spot, just gazing at the strength of the piece. Whether it is in ‘Sisi Unilag’ rendered in pastel that comments on the seeming superficiality of a lady who is nonetheless very serious with her studies or the mixed media work, ‘Afi Suru’ that shows a group of market women who remain undaunted in the face of disturbing circumstances which apparently task their patience, they remain hopeful that customers are on their way, he shows himself a keen observer of his environment.The exhibition attracted prominent industry heads from all spheres, including art, sports and music: Illbliss, former First Lady of Akwa Ibom State, Ambassador, Elajoe, Udy Umondak, Obiora Obiwon, Efe Omoregbe, Muma Gee, the legendary DJ Jimmy Jatt and art enthusiasts.