EVENTS, Exhibitions

MEET THE ISIUWES -ANGELA & EMMANUEL II (At MAN, An Exhibition of Paintings & Drawings by Emmanuel Isiuwe)

Opening today, July 28, 2017 at the Didi Museum, Victoria Island is Emmanuel Isiuwe’s first solo exhibition titled MAN. A play on words from his name EmMANuel. The exhibition centers on celebrating the male gender in all the vicissitudes of life facing him.

Emmanuel ISIUWE, husband to Angela Isiuwe -the minimalist artist; a father of five children revealed that he realized that the male sex is not as celebrated as should be. In his words in an interview I had with him during the opening, “often times, when we come across information on this gender, it is in a negative light -harping on gender imbalance, abuses, etc.” He however believes (and rightfully so, if I may add), that there is more to the subject than portrayed. In this exhibition, he draws on his own experiences as a man, the challenges he’s faced in the past, the dilemmas, the joys, the pressures and the expectations from the society.

L: Fortitude, 2017, Acrylic & Charcoal

With a combined number of approximately thirty (30) works spanning the diverse media that he works with -oil, watercolour and mixed media, Emmanuel’s exhibition is an inspiring sight to behold. In an environment where pseudo-feminism is becoming the norm, where almost every artist is trying to conform to the feminist debate and movement sweeping over the media, without fully understanding the underpinnings of the concept, Isiuwe should be commended. According to him, the show has been long overdue. During his last joint exhibition (with his wife, Angela) at the same venue, he realized from his conversations with a collector that most artists were fond of depicting the female form. He took a cursory view at the works on display then and the realization fully hit home. That was his Eureka moment and he’s been working on the body of works on display since then. The exhibition features works with titles such as –My Joy; a charcoal and pastel rendition of a man lifting up a child, claimed to be that indescribable elation he felt when he first held his first child in his arms. My Will, (and testament), one of the oil paintings, looks at the struggles of the average man to provide for his family even after his demise. Amongst others are a series of works titled Contemplations I-IV, Our Choice I -II, At Rest I-II, etc. all showing different compositions of the male form or a cluster of masculine forms at work, play or rest.

My Will & My Joy at MAN, the Exhibition

Isiuwe is a product of the Auchi Art School, where he was taught and mentored by the likes of Dr Ikoro, the late Ben Osaghae, Sam Ovraiti, Duke Asidere and others. His style is reminiscent of what the school is known for -the bold use of colours. His works at first glance are striking and appear full of energy. With a myriad of bold strokes achieved with the pastel knife (for the oil-based works), the works are busy and could be overwhelming to the uninitiated. The forms seem to be emerging from the canvas surface as a result of his works learning towards impasto. Contours, ridges and brisk strokes are evident from a review of the body of works, suggesting swift jerky movement in his painting style. Emmanuel Isiuwe, the Man and the artist is a character full of life, convivial, with his gestures well animated. He appears to be one who makes friends easily, as he switches gracefully between groups of visitors at the show.

Born in 1968, the 49 year old artist who hails from Idimuje, Ugboko in Delta state holds a B.A. in Painting (1992). He’s been a part of over ten joint and group exhibitions and has had a few public commissions. He revealed in my interview with him that he had taught art at the grade school level in the past, seeing the arts as a panacea to helping the upcoming generation find their true self and express who they are. He makes a conscious effort to immerse his kids in the arts as well, encouraging them to pursue avenues through which they can best express themselves. At the exhibition opening was Emmanuel’s last child, eleven year old David, pounding away rhythmic notes at the piano, helping to set the ambiance.

Mixed media & paper works (Watercolour, Charcoal) at MAN

With the support of the Didi Museum, Seinde Odimayo and his curator, Luciano Uzuegbu, who both contributed literary pieces to the exhibition catalogue, (with the latter present at the opening of the show), MAN -an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Emmanuel Isiuwe will be on till August 2nd, 2017.

For more on the Isiuwes, watch this space for excerpts of my video interview and transcriptions of the audio sessions with both Emmanuel and Angela Isiuwe –The modern day (Nigerian) Von Trapp family.

David Isiuwe at the piano
Some oil paintings at MAN
A cross-section of some of those present at MAN. L-R: Angela, a guest, myself, Emmanuel, Newton Jibuno, & Luciano
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EVENTS

TRIBUTE TO BEN OSAGHAE (1952 – 2017)

Another devastating blow hit the Nigerian Art Community a few days after the New Year, when on January 18th, 2017; the lifeless body of Ben Osaghae was discovered at his Egbeda home. It came as a shock for all that witty, comical Ben, popularly called Master by his colleagues was no more!

The fine details surrounding his demise are still uncertain, but the 54 year old artist was apparently alone at the time of his last conscious moments –faced down on his bed. Ben was more than a friend and brother to many, thus arrangements were made speedily to convey his remains to his hometown in Edo state where he was interred in a matter of a few days. The event was a sad one attended by a handful of his artist-colleagues and family.

‘That cannot be all’ was the general refrain within the art community, so two months after his passing, precisely on March 30th, 2017, a worthy tribute, organized by the Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA), was held in his honour at the National Museum, Onikan Lagos. It was well attended by dignitaries, artists, his family and friends. Special guests at the event included HRM Nnameka Achebe -the Obi of Onitsha, Chief Ede Dafinone, Jess Castellote, Kavita Chellarams, Julianna Edewor, Rahman Akar, and Dapo Adeniyi of the Position Magazine –all who played a key role in the development of the artist and shared tear-evoking tales of their past with the audience. Other personages at the event were Dr Kunle Filani, the famous Yaba Tech artist and retired lecturer Kolade Oshinowo, gallery administrators, curators and approximately the entire troupe of the GFA.

The event was far from sad and was a colourful one where dignitaries reminisced on how they met Ben and what made him special. Jess Castellote reflected on what led to the only publication on Ben, co-authored by himself and I, titled OSAGHAE; Visual Chronicles of a Society in Flux. Ms Edewor and the Signature Gallery owner; Rahman Akar spoke well of the trying beginnings of Ben and how they encouraged and promoted him. The tribute ended with wise words from the Royal King of Onitsha who advised that some form of intervention fund should be established to aid ailing artists and those who may have the need in the art world. These talks were spiced by a showcase of his oeuvre that I have documented over time. Though I was prepared to say a few words, as were many others, the event was brought to an official close after two hours, and the guests present were ushered into the courtyard of the National Museum for a session of informal bonding, photography and refreshments.

Ben Osaghae (1962 -2017) lived a full productive life and his works will continue to highlight the struggles and challenges of life -especially city life. Click on the images below to see a comprehensive chronology of Osaghae’s life.

Below is the transcript of the speech I prepared for the eve of tribute.

TO GOOD OL’ BEN

I’d like to thank everyone who is a part of this community or anyone who has said a kind word or shared a condolence message over the past weeks since we lost dear old Ben. Your kind words, conversations and other positive gestures have kept many of us going and helped us cope better with the sudden loss and grief.

To some, Ben was a brother, a teacher; many fondly nicknamed him The Master, and to others, he was an associate, a neighbour, an artist, a creator; an author who strove to point out the ills he observed around him, in a bid to make our world better.

I have managed the portfolio of many artists and others within my budding career in this sector, but I can say none touched me in the way Osaghae did. I was recommend to him, at a time when he wanted to expand the appeal for his works to the international stage. I started off by building and managing his online gallery and in a short while, the relationship progressed from a professional one to a more personal type. I spent numerous hours with him, interviewing him on many subjects, we both criticised and analysed his works, while sharing a bottle of wine… or three and I’d like to think it was him and not the wine, but Ben had that remarkable gift of taking a seemingly mundane issue and dissecting it at length in a manner in which most times we’d both discover we were late for whatever engagements we had planned for after our time together.

He was a brilliant artist whose style was to paint or draw things he wanted to call attention to and this he did methodically –it gave rise to many of the series we associate with him today, like the ecclesiastical series, transportation series, incarceration series, etc. With the joint effort and support of others, I have documented about 650 artworks signed by him. This might not seem like much for an artist whose career spanned three decades, or to others who churn out works daily, but for an artist who seldom repeated himself and who had such a critical illness has he harboured, I think it is remarkable!

My collaborations with Ben was largely based on evolving a medium for projecting his works to a wider audience. This was what led to the establishment of his online gallery and also the book on his oeuvre –OSAGHAE; Visual Chronicles of a Society in Flux, co-authored by myself and Jess Castellote. For me, all my interactions with him were personally fulfilling experiences and it is a solemn vow I am willing to enter into, that I will continue to project his works to the world.

Ben Osaghae, in the flesh is gone, but he lives on through us and his creations.

I dedicate the following adaptation of the poem by May Fenn to my dear friend and brother, Ben Osaghae.

Death is not the end, for love goes on

And we find the evidence, here after you’re gone.

The flowers that you planted, will blossom without end,

We will find you in their beauty, as to their needs we tend.

The time we spent together, the laughter in the our memories,

Will continue to give pleasure, to us throughout the ages.

Thank you.
Akinyemi Adetunji

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