A refreshing air of escapism is palpable as one navigates the gallery space to digest the works of nine emerging artists from the contemplative to the nostalgic, Yinka Olatunbosun writes
A buzzy sight of Affinity Art Gallery last Sunday signaled the return of warmth to the quiet visual art scene in Lagos. Nine emerging artists with unique painting styles converged on the Affinity Art gallery, Victoria Island Lagos in a group show titled “It’s all in me.’’ Curated by Wunika Mukan, the show is an assortment of creative expressions, tapped from the inner self and the society. The exhibition tells the story of being and becoming, from the contemplative to the nostalgic.
Featuring Obiageli Adaeze Okaro, Akinola Taoheed Olaitan, Derek Jahyem Jombo-Ogboi, Ebuka P. Agudiegwu, Nzubechukwu Ozoemena, Olasunkanmi Akomolehin, Oluwapelumi Oluyemi, Plantation (Ayomide Tejuosho) and Sophia Chioma, the show which opened on July 3 is a convergence point for young artists from diverse cultural heritage and at different stages in their careers- undergraduates, fresh graduates and studio artists.
Breaking the barriers is in Okaro’s veins. The Enugu-state born photographer is intrigued with capturing portraits of black men and women- and sometimes, architecture and fashion. Drawing upon her ancestral roots, she highlights the glow and beauty in black skin, dismantling stereotypes that are celebrated on Nollywood screens.
“In this body of work, decisively romantic images are composed using styling themes from past eras. The images are simultaneously strong and graceful with an underlying melancholy,’’ she said.
Her piece titled, “All That You Are’’ shows a young woman shrouded in shadows. With its sensual appeal, Okaro reflects on the intimate yet relatable memories of a woman’s journey into becoming.
With Olaitan, every piece is multilayered. Using purple patch-like scars on the skin of his subjects, he depicts bravery-an invaluable asset in everyday struggle. The multi-disciplinary artist and student of the University of Nsukka had enjoyed some tutelage at the Universal Studios of Art under Abiodun Olaku and Salako Olajide Peter. To infuse deeper meanings to his works, he interrogates his name ‘Akinola’ meaning ‘the strong one has wealth’ as relives his past and contemplates the future.
“My work is a constant search for the best way to interpret the ideas that I have about my genesis and the world I live in,’’ he said. His works at the show include the series “I feel loved Again.’’
For a taste of figurative surrealism and naturalism, Derek Jahyem Jombo-Ogboi is the showstopper. In dark shades he posed against his paintings-looking like a celebrity of sorts. Having participated in group shows in Bristol and Cambridge, this Benin-born Delta state indigene has made a name for himself as a graffiti artist and interdisciplinary artist who makes installations using auditory mediums. He didn’t fall short of expectations in appropriating Benin culture in his pieces.
“My work is a fusion of classical style with contemporary elements and objects,’’ he disclosed.
Olasunkanmi Akomolehin, who studied art at Rufus Giwa Polytechnic as well as Yaba College of Technology was taught by his grand-mother that a woman’s beauty transcends the physical. This thought inspired one of his pieces called ‘’Oreke.’’ As one with six sisters, he is often concerned about the nature of women.
“In my work, I use afro hair to depict strength, implicit in its defiance of gravity and as a representation and extension of our innate identity. It is a reminder of our ability to bloom and thrive irrespective of life’s circumstances,’’ he said.
Ebuka Pascal Adudiegwu drew a relationship with man and plants throughout his works, exploring stereotypical narratives about the origin of the black man. In a very engaging conversation, he walked this reporter through his journey of self-discovery and the determination to pursue art even as a graduate of Biochemistry.
Since he was five, he knew he would paint but couldn’t be consistent without parental support. Fast-forward to 2022, this group show is his first exhibition in Lagos following successful shows in Cyprus, South Africa and London.
In ‘Nostalgia,’ he explores past experiences from his young inquisitive mind. Born in Kano, he communicates his views on black identity, gender, tribalism, addiction, societal neglect, child abuse and extrajudicial killings.
“My intention is to rejuvenate the consciousness of my viewers through my works thereby provoking their thoughts and adjusting conversations to redress these societal issues challenging humanity,’’ he said.
Family roots and catholic iconography played significant influence in the works of Nzubechukwu Ozoemena, a self-taught artist and an undergraduate of architecture at the University of Benin. He highlights themes of memory, connectivity, community and spirituality using paint and scribbled texts. In ‘Trickles of Reconciliation,’ he interrogates the subject matter of baptism.
Using charcoal, oil and graphite, Oluyemi Oluwapelumi navigates everyday realities as she applies the Italian method. “I think of my work as a call for change, hope and self-awareness, inviting viewers into a world of originality,’’ she said.
Based in France, Ayomide Tejuosho’s installation titled ‘My Sin is Blue’ is a body of photographs, words and video archives of passing black people. She described it as ‘a visual compilation of my reflections ob black plurality, black nihilism, pain and the black divine.’ Through found and developed visuals of still black forms, the project affirms these phenomena by dignifying the mundane with the light.
At the show’s opening, the curator, Wunikan Mukan, expressed her confidence in the new crop of emerging artists. “These are artists that I really believe in and I feel like there is a space for them in the art community. A couple of them have had shown before but this is a major gallery show and I just want to use this as an opportunity to amplify them,’’ she said.