When two artists collaborate for a show with support from a reputable gallery, the result is sheer anticipation. For many art collectors, the exhibition, titled Ascension, is one in the list of must-see events this month. Opening on September 22, it features Wallace Ejoh and Jefferson Jonahan, two mid-career, yet time-tested artists.
Ejoh, a Ghanaian-Nigerian artist, was at the preview of the show last weekend, defying the slight showers that preceded the day. With no fewer than 17 years of practice, he shares his working hours between his Apapa studio and homes of clients, most of whom are expatriates’ wives with keen interest in honing their artistic skills. His works had been featured in art exhibitions both in Nigeria and international platforms. Despite his rich and rewarding career, he is yet to have a solo show. This exhibition will serve as a spring board to that dream of a solo show as he revealed.
“After this show, you have to watch out for each artist because you’re going to see new things different from what we’ve been executing,” he said. “Ascension means ‘upward movement’ for us. The artist is not supposed to be boxed. If you are boxed [in] with a type of ‘ism’, you won’t want to express a new idea. I don’t associate my self with one art movement only.”
Ejoh had been described by writers as an “impressionist” but his pieces in the show prove his versatility. Meanwhile, he paints on canvas while his partner, Jonahan has paintings in pastel and a few drawings on paper. The latter has been involved in two solo exhibitions, several group exhibitions and art auctions both within and outside Nigeria.
On what influences these artists, each revealed how personal experiences had seeped into the thematic linings of the works. Ejoh had lived away from his parents in his late teens. That “freedom” has played a pivotal role in his subject matter for some of the works.
For Jonahan, one day at the Eyo festival in Lagos changed his perception of what we conceive as culture. Enticed by the swirl of the Eyo masqueraders, he attempted to capture the moment on his phone’s camera but was interrupted by a hand that yanked the phone from his hands. Beaten by some members of the Eyo procession, he had left the scene without his phone but with the memory of the Eyo which has inspired the work, “The Swirl”.
Wallace is largely influenced by socio-cultural happenings as well. In his painting, “Women, Mirror and Beauty”, he tells the story of women’s obsession with their outward appearance. In another painting, “Book of Fiction”, he tells of young girls’ fascination with reading fantasy and romance and similar stories concocted by various authors. In “Three Guys and a Lady”, he paints a picture of a lady being wooed by three men and only sought to be married by just one. Wallace delves into the abstract and surreal with “Dream, Reality and Beyond”. For him, it was one piece that evolved the same way a dream does…unplanned.
Jonahan’s interest in the young, untrained swimmers living in Lagos slums inspired the work “Makoko Prodigy”.
“We can find great swimmers in this communities but we are not looking at these places to sell the Nigerian brand,” he said. “If we are going for international competition, we usually source for foreign trained athletes. I have been in that community and I have seen a lot of good swimmers.”
The exhibition runs till October 6.