"The art that we create is helping to give our people self-identity. For one to call himself an artist, one has to take a leadership role. Not just merely producing art works, but producing art works which are backed by ideas and philosophies that are calculated to help upgrade and uplift the life of the people"
The history of art is riddled with criticisms against the ‘wanton and scandalous’ acts of artists who have dared to introduce new styles and techniques of practice which originally, are unproven or have been disproved to be what art means. It begs the question of what constitutes an absolute work of art.
Facade is an exhibition of paintings by the revered African artist and scholar, Bruce Onobrakpeya that sees the famed technique in a new and unconventional presentation. The term references the flawed notion shared by majority of the public that there are limits to what a painting is. In effect, the exhibition delivers a sharp contrast to the viewer’s expectation of what the technique entails, intrinsically conveying the artist’s limitless and eclectic capacity for storytelling.
As an artist, Onobrakpeya is grounded on the notion that artistic methodologies stemmed in Western traditions are grossly insufficient to portray African art traditions. Painting —defined by the artist as “simply the use of colours”— in African art goes beyond designs made on typical surfaces such as canvas, fabric or paper; we paint on the walls, masks, even on our bodies—the choice of base is limitless and so, three-dimensional works of art that imbue colours including sculptures have been selected into this show [in order] to justify the variations of painting that exists within African art. These variations which cannot be stifled by the globalised precept of the art technique and his standpoint, as seen via the exhibits displayed, assures that there are endless capacities to what a painting can be made to be.
The exhibition presents works that cut across a selection of periods that the artist has undergone since the beginning of his studio practice. The exhibits reveal ideas that have been tested and executed decades ago and in their new nature, now inculcate contemporary fragments. They are a synthesis of fabric, prints and found objects that serve as a base for colour which is the fundamental element of an Onobrakpeya painting.
Some of the subject matters explored are peculiar to the messages treated by the artist; this range from social commentary as seen in the statement piece, Ibiero Djidara (2010/2020) that decries the violence against women as witnessed globally today and how they have become victims of barbaric acts such as femicide, rape, trafficking and other forms of dehumanisation; to works like Ekugbe (1994/2019), Smoke from a Broken Pipe (2005), Ekuoregbe (2003) and Travail of the Continent Masquerades III (2005) that address the political state of the country and continent.
The exhibition, Facade can be deemed a window that offers more than a glimpse into the plurality of his many thematic impulses—consider it a checkmate on the rule-bound and rigidity of artistic applications.
Guest Curator: Kennii Ekundayo
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