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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Exhibitions

HILLARY UZOMBA, AN EMERGING ALL-ROUNDER.

I first met this unassuming and friendly young man on one of my trips to the Eastern part of the country. I had been invited to Onitsha by a prominent Collector to document his large and rich collection of contemporary Nigerian artworks. It was a rather big project so I was ready and glad to be away from Lagos for a good number of days. Habitually, whenever I visit a city or town, I try to meet the local artists there and even document some in their studios. Having been to Onishta a good number of times in the past, on this trip, I made my way to Abraka (the Delta State University) and then Asaba, it was here I first met Hillary Uzomba, at the Akademik Art Studios, Asaba, Delta state.

4aHillary Uzomba at the Moorhouse, venue of his first solo exhibition 

The Akademik Art Studio is one of the vibrant art spaces for artists in and around Asaba, it is run by Phillips Nzekwe, an energetic sculptor who works with discarded materials. The studio caters to the needs of artists just as it hosts art students on internship. Hillary happens to be the studio manager, holding the fort for Phillips at the studio whenever the latter is away. He thus acts as an art instructor to the interns on apprenticeship at the studio, he is also an archivists and of course an artist. For the better part of my visit to this studio, Uzomba was preoccupied with other stuff and I did not get to see his works till I was on my way out. However, after I chanced upon them, I had to schedule another visit, just so I could digest what he presented before me.

As with all works in this exhibition, this artist simply puts ink to paper and creates engaging abstracted figures and forms from memory. His style as revealed by him is to ponder on a word, then make an abstract representation of what the word means to him. At first glance, the pieces might seem ordinary, but a closer and deeper look will certainly get most people engaged. It is even better when he gives his insight into the work. Each piece is loaded with calligraphy, iconic forms and motifs that draw from local folklore and African culture. All the works on exhibition are ink drawings, but Hillary does more than put pen to paper. Perhaps through the effect of Nzekwe and the Akademik Studios, he now explores creation of mixed media art made from salvaged and discarded materials too. Prominent in his oeuvre from this class of art are compositions made entirely out of flip-flop synthetic foam slippers. “I walk about the streets scavenging and always on the lookout for these items; I make each artwork, carefully embedding the original colours of the material to form the narrative in each piece”, he disclosed in a recent chat I had with him before the opening of his exhibition. He also paints with auto base paint on Perspex glass.

Works on display at the exhibition, themed Online Timeline

This is his first solo, themed Online Timeline. It opened on Saturday, April 1, 2017 and it features a body of work created solely in ink. These works are on display at the Moorhouse, which is a co-supporter of the exhibition, in partnership with the Alliance Francaise. The drawings explore the relationship between space and time and the cyclic relativity between both boundless concepts. His lines are fine and they appear as one consistent stroke -a conscious doodle if you will, laden with intense contracts effected from heavy shading and highlighting. In his words, “lines are, in my deepest understanding of them visual enjambments that define people, subjects, objects and mental realities.” Hillary’s eye for composition is laudable and I praise his bravery for electing to base his first solo on monochromatic ink drawings –a fear many emerging artists are too conscious of, dreading to be judged and stereotyped as simplistic or naive.

Hillary’s love for the arts is multi-directional -he is an avid poet as well and a lover of the literary arts, film and music. He has won a handful of awards through his literary compositions which litter the web. What’s more, his love for poetry and the literary arts shines through as, next to each piece is a short narrative of his inspiration, or an insight into the work. This not only gives the display more depth but affords the audience a sneak-peek into the mind of this brilliant artist. He is indeed a brilliant mind; one only has to converse with him to get him reeling off.

A native of Isuikwuato, Abia state, Hillary Uzomba was born in 1991 and was raised in Owerri. He had most of his education in Imo state -from grade school to the Tertiary level where he studied Art at the Alvan Ikoku (College of Education) Campus of the University of Nigeria.
Online Timeline will be on display till the 15th of April, it is worth your time.

1aWith Hillary Uzomba and Phillips Nzekwe at the exhibition (L-R).