On the Quest for Gold and…Silva

In abstraction, Imal Emmanuel Silva discerns a gateway to uncharted territories, forging deep connections with viewers and transcending mere aesthetics to unravel the core of human existence. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke writes 

To many of the local art scene’s cognoscenti, Imal Emmanuel Silva might just as well have emerged from a no-show phase, albeit a brief one. The University of Ibadan and the Enterprise Development Centre at Lagos Business School graduate—as it now turns out—is fervently immersing himself in meticulous preparation for an imminent solo exhibition at the Turkish Embassy in Abuja.

Hardly has the word about the forthcoming exhibition, titled An Ode to Existence, been out before the artist—seething with a torrent of emotions bursting from within—let out that it has been envisioned as an immersive experience. Also, even before the curtains rise on this milestone event on Thursday, June 6, he already hints at a series of other artistic offerings in tow, which will culminate in a grand finale exhibition in London to wrap up the year in a flourish of creativity and talent. 

Aficionados should, therefore, expect a meticulously planned exhibition, which will be orchestrated under the supervision of the esteemed Turkish female curator, Beste Gürsu. It will feature abstract paintings that delve into the intricate theme of environmental sustainability and its profound significance in human existence. “I have deliberately avoided figuration,” he corroborates in a recent post on Facebook, “particularly not placing human subjects in the work, because I wanted this exhibition and its process to be a time of contemplation… to look from outside in… and avoid our desire as humans to see ourselves at the centre at all times.”

No doubt, the unwavering predilection for sustainability runs deep, embedding mindfulness in each painting that seamlessly intertwines socio-cultural, environmental, and economic facets. Hence, the introspective Sri Lankan-born artist’s work transcends mere artistry to leave a lasting impact on the world, emphasising the delicate balance needed for sustainable progress.

Something about Silva’s intricate offerings—the delicate dance of light with shadows—reflects the ebb and flow of environmental consciousness. Each stroke on canvas whispers tales of forests, oceans, and skies, enveloping viewers in a world where hues meld like dreams. His canvas, therefore, is a portal into a realm where earthly wonders intertwine with artistic ingenuity, igniting a passion for conservation and a celebration of the natural world’s splendour.As Beste Gürsu affirms in her curatorial statement for the exhibition, which ends on July 6, he also “understands how abstract narratives can influence how people perceive environmental issues emotionally and intellectually and the role these interactions play in environmental decision-making. They work to support environmental activism through their art, and they strive to create and develop an artistic space for sustainability by fostering connections among diverse communities.”

With upcoming projects in view, Silva’s profound insights promise a grand unveiling that will echo for years, reflecting a quest for a deeper understanding of human existence and purpose. Among these upcoming projects is the pioneering Women Creative Summit, which promises to be a transformative endeavour. For instance, Treasure for Life AGH, which he co-founded, will be teaming up with esteemed partners like the Business Day  Foundation and Terra Kulture for this grand collaboration that aims to empower female creatives by addressing industry challenges and proposing innovative solutions. Expectedly, the project has the backing of the culture and creative economy minister, Hannatu Musa Musawa, signalling a deep commitment to fostering creativity and diversity. 

As is oftentimes the case with creative souls, Silva is on a relentless quest for that confluence, where the delicate threads of artistry and entrepreneurship intertwine in a shimmering dance of harmonious elegance. It is akin to a compelling internal struggle to toe the delicate equilibrium between the ethereal whispers of artistic essence and the practical demands of business—perhaps a see-saw between passion and pragmatism.

This is one reason why his recent video interview with a budding filmmaker, Silver Ojumo, harps on the symbiotic relationship between art and commerce, where the artist must gracefully pirouette between his creative vision and the realities of the world. “Yes,” he muses pensively in that 17-minute-36-second video, “peculiar challenges for me would have been setting an equilibrium between my artistic work and my business.”

His artistic journey began with exposure to predominantly figurative and representational art during his formative years. Observing a landscape or an object would trigger an innate need to freeze the moment for posterity through the medium of art while capturing the subtleties in vibrant strokes. Initially, his creations mirrored the known, until a burgeoning curiosity led him towards the realm of abstraction.

Embracing this shift, he delved deeper into experimental techniques, shaping a unique artistic identity. Thus, he honed his skills, finely tuning each creation to embody a specific concept or thematic essence. Adapting acrylics as his primary medium, he deftly wields a palette knife to craft intricate textures, combining drip techniques for fluidity and impasto for depth. This duality intertwines harmoniously, birthing a body of work teeming with raw emotion and unbridled expression.

While anchored in acrylics, the spectre of future exploration looms, beckoning the allure of oil on canvas—a potential canvas for untold stories and unrestrained creativity. In the delicate dance between control and spontaneity, Silva’s artistry flourishes, each piece a melodic composition inscribed on the canvas, a symphony of feelings in vivid hues.“While creating abstract expressions using nature’s colours and forms, Silva manipulates them not to depict realism but to reflect their emotions, thoughts, and inner experiences,” Beste Gürsu confirms in her curatorial statement. 

Having been a devoted artist for years, he counts on the unwavering support of his wife, close-knit family, and a circle of loyal friends. He is grateful for the deep understanding people have of his true self. This is while attributing his good fortune to his conscientious conduct and grounded demeanour. Balancing the dichotomy of being a gregarious “people’s person” while cherishing his privacy, he navigates life with a unique self-awareness. Originally hailing from Sri Lanka, where he left at age 10, and spending over four decades in Nigeria, he wholeheartedly embraces his second home while maintaining strong ties to his roots. Marrying and raising his children in Nigeria, he seamlessly blends both cultures into his everyday life, evident in his eclectic wardrobe and diverse culinary offerings at home.

Ultimately, Silva proudly embodies a harmonious blend of identities shaped by diverse experiences—a fact the forthcoming exhibition will attest to.

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