The enthralling art of Emeka Udemba

If you are an avid visual art lover or collector, you probably may have come across many enthralling works by ingenious artists at exhibitions, galleries, corporate spaces and private homes.

But there is yet one artist you need to meet because he is a warehouse of sheer creativity, amid an unassuming personality. Emeka Udemba is an enterprising Nigerian artist who has mastered his craft long ago with impressive appeal across the globe.

Udemba, who describes himself as a multi-disciplinary artist, is truly multi-talented with the rare skill of working across many art media and forms.

The Fine Art graduate from the University of Lagos is a master of painting, photography, video, installations, and performances.

Udemba’s works investigate imaginary worlds and rethink the boundaries of the archetypal.

He is always drawn to the idea of integrating different art forms to achieve what he calls the ‘total experience’.

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Also, he believes that the end determines the medium. “I am very open to the choice of medium based on the particular project, concept, theme, and idea that I am engaged with”, he says.

He also employs very unique techniques in his paintings by embedding strips of paper, a practice he describes as “add-ons” and that derives from his interest in the appropriation of images, information and print materials, articulating his concern regarding the politics of social, economic and geographic classification and stereotypes.

Another intrigue about Udemba is that he is both a home and diaspora artist as he is currently based between Lagos and Freiburg in Germany, where he runs a thriving art studio.

Looking at some of his famous works, he maximizes the creative input and also facilitates a wholesome experience for viewers. World White Walls, his installation at the 2002 Dakar Biennale offered total experience by exploring and addressing migration, identity, politics and other topical issues.

Tools of Conflicts is another exciting work by the artist. The work, a solo exhibition, presented by Arthouse in 2015 showcased Udemba’s works across drawing, photography, painting, installation and video, amid offering the viewers ‘total experience’.

In November 2019, Udemba was in Nigeria for a solo exhibition titled ‘A Question of Being’. The exhibition, which was curated by SMO Contemporary Art, marked the opening of the new Temple Muse flagship store in Victoria Island Lagos.

Through ‘A Question of Being’, Udemba presented “the vibrancy of hybrid cultures” referencing race, history, memory, gender, time, and beauty. He also experimented with rich colours, transparencies, words, printed paper, and textures to create multi-layered portraits, which take a critical look at the emergence of vibrant multi-cultural communities and how hybrid identity affects our sense of belonging.

Describing Udemba, Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, founder and artistic director of SMO Contemporary Art, said he is an artist of Nigerian descent, who has spent the past 25 years working in his studio in Freiburg, Germany. “Through his paintings and installation, he touches on the issue of global migration and the need for people to be confident in their race, ethnic roots, and culture, and “not to let ourselves be defined by the strangers’ gaze, but to celebrate the diverse colours of all humanity.”

“I believe Emeka Udemba’s work provides a powerful and insightful next step in the exciting journey of presenting the best of global creativity in the beautiful, multi-functional spaces Temple Muse has to offer”, Obiago said.

Over the years, Udemba’s works have been recognized, appreciated and rewarded amid many awards, grants and residencies across the world.

Some of his exhibitions and awards include recent projects at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, a project grant with the Prince Claus Fund in the Netherlands and a project grant from Siftungskunstfonds in Germany.

The artist still shuttles between Nigeria and Germany with plans to institute projects as a legacy for his art in Lagos Nigeria. His works are in private collections, public spaces and museums across the world.

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