Okechukwu Uwaezuoke

Five Nigerian artists are currently engaging the visual arts audience in the Terra Kulture Gallery’s ongoing online exhibition. The artists – Chigozie Obi, UA.x Seyi, Apreel Geek, Chukwuka Nwobi and Osagie – through such media as painting, photography and video are sharing their perspectives of the exhibition’s title Colour in Light.

This exhibition – apparently the Lagos-based gallery’s first since the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown – was intended to run online from Thursday, June 11 to Tuesday, August 11. But, the organisers have assured the viewing public that it would remain available online till the gallery reopens, after its closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With their engaging offerings, the artistic quintet guides the viewers on an exploration of the relationship between sight and perception. “We see colour everywhere,” according to a statement in their exhibition catalogue. “We may say we do not see colour, we perceive it. Colour is derived from the perception of wavelengths of light. When white light travels through a prism, it creates the full spectrum because it is a mix of all the electromagnetic wavelengths that create the colours of the spectrum. When it travels through the glass, each wavelength bends at different speeds to spread out into each colour, red travelling the fastest, and violet the slowest. The human eye can distinguish between 8 to 10 million colours, with each tint, shade, tone or combination fulfilling its own experience.”

Through their diverse forms of expression, each of the artists – in his or her unique way – delves into the relationship between colour and light and “emoting colour through light and shadow”. Expectedly, each impresses its note upon the subject, hence offering the viewer a distinctive world of experiencing, despite the thematic connectedness of the works. Ultimately, the exhibition, through its disparate renditions of the theme, hopes to induce the viewer to not just a more conscious perception of colour, but also “its competence in our vibrations, sensibilities, and environment.”

Take Anambra State-born Chigozie Obi, who was not only raised but also based in Lagos, for instance. Her epiphany moment with the painting medium was when she became more adept with the use of colours. This was during her industrial training.
She took things up a notch when, upon her graduation, she began experimenting with as many materials and media as she could lay her hands on. As she impresses her note on each of the characters she paints, she begins to see herself in them. Thus, through her engaging watercolour paintings such as “Amaka” and “Victory Start”, she regales her viewers with her playfulness with colours. Creating moods and backdrops of light and darkness as well as conjuring facial expressions from solicitude to tranquillity, she explores at the same time the intimate monochromatic tones of red and brown in chiaroscuro. Lurking beneath what she calls her “stories about social norms and regressive beliefs like body and beauty standards, inequality, and tradition”, are her views on “how they cause women’s struggles of insecurity, depression and the [struggle] for self-acceptance.”

As for UA.X Seyi, he seeks ways to coax quiescence and tranquillity from out of the shadows extending through his “hard-natural lit tableaus of photosets and films”. Evident in his works featured in this exhibition is “the intense contrast and colour-light balance between the subjects and their background.” These works seem to suggest meticulous contrasts in his photos to absorb excess light and foster more vibrant colours. Thus, he hopes to make the hues and light radiate to all parts of the frame. In one of his works, titled “Grim II”, colour and light are tools for kindling moods. The viewer gradually gets acquainted with his monochromatic schemes, with which he hopes to emphasise his stories and techniques. His “experiments with hard natural light and monochromes to highlight his contrasted themes like class, architecture, pain, movement, peace and sound” are more evident in the “Blue” series (I-V) as well as in “Paradise I and II”, “OTWS I and II” and “Ozzizza Boys”.

Moving on to Osagie, the Edo State-born aesthetic developer, the viewer is confronted with such enchanting conceptual 38 x 12” triptych prints as “Beach Hut”, “Haze”, “Nights”, “Residents” and “Strong and Solid”, among others. The artist, who has always nurtured a penchant for the finer things in life, recalls transiting from capturing his secondary school party outfits to collecting sneakers, music CDs, action figures, comics and, eventually rendering his everyday life objects in abstract forms. His creative efforts are intended to inspire the viewers to the more aesthetic appreciation of their environment. Featured, therefore, in this exhibition are that proclaim his elements of design –line, form, texture, colour, space, value, shape – from the rooftops. Over the years of engaging with his surroundings, he has come to terms with the verity: “No place is ever the same on a different day.”

Apreel Geek, the fourth artist, is also a photographer and illustrator. Ever since his childhood years, the artist – born Musa Ganiyy – has always lived by the battle cry: “Art is all I know”. He draws his inspiration from his environment and childhood experiences. These are experiences – expressed in his suggestive compositions, speculative abstracts and sonorous landscapes – that any person born or raised in Nigeria easily connects with. Others are still bound to “feel the pull from the past in his time warps about growth. Growing up, growing into, growing out of, and simply growing.” His acrylic and oil pastel on paper works (like “Band Boys”, “Fifth Generation Nerds”, “Junior Secondary Inferno” and “Room and Parlour”, among others) assail the viewers with a kaleidoscope of emotions.

The last artist in the lot, Chukwuka Nwobi, born and raised in Lagos, confronts the viewers with his experimental works with colour and light “through double and long exposure in his superimposed photomontages of women”. Through the prints, which are are mainly labelled in figures, he romanticises femininity while continually breaking his barriers.