If there is one exhibition you need to see this last quarter of the year, it is this one by Chijioke Onuora.
It is the debut solo outing by Onuora, who is aptly a multidisciplinary artist, whose works cut across drawing, painting, textile and sculpture.
Again, the reasons to see the exhibition, which is aptly titled Mark Making abound.
The works are creative outputs of over three decades of his artistic career, with special highlight on uli, the creative style of the artists of University of Nigeria Nsukka Art School, which is better known as Nsukka School led by Uche Okeke in 1970s and beyond.
With all these going for him, Onuora, a third generation of artists from the legendary Nsukka School, who currently teaches drawing and sculpture at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he lives and works, is inviting lovers of art and the public to see Mark Making at Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, from October 30 – November 19, 2022.
On visiting to see the exhibition, Onuora promises visitors an array of works that speak to the contemporary issues of the Igbo people in particular, and the nation in general.
Of course, the artist, who is an ardent disciple of uli, will also make a generous show of uli themed works at the exhibition.
According to Iheanyi Onwuegbucha of Princeton University and curator of the exhibition, Onuora will be examining his experimentation with drawing in various dimensions, processes, and media.
“In this current body of works, Onuora has combined his multiple studio practice in sculpture, painting, batik, and drawing, in exploration of drawing as a performative ritual of mark making,” Onwuegbucha said.
Speaking further on the calibre of artist Onuora is and why his solo exhibition is a must-see, the curator said that the artist goes further to explore the disappearing Igbo tradition of Ichi facial scarifications as a ritualized form of drawing inscribed on the human body, while drawing inspiration from the repertoire of linear patterns found in Ichi and carved Igbo wooden screens and door panels.
For art critics, Onuora is their bet as he skillfully pushes the boundaries of drawing by playing with the characters and visual syntaxes of charcoal sticks on paper and fabrics, the burning and lacerations of the angle grinder and router on wood, and brush-applied hot wax-resist on dyed fabrics.
Speaking on the exhibition and his love for lines, Onuora said, “Lines, which are dots in motion, are central in my studio efforts on mark making.
“At the moment, I am inspired by the lines on the beautifully carved entrance gates into the obu compound, the azu wall panels of the obu house as well as the Ichi lines permanently engraved on the foreheads of prospective Ozo title initiates.
“These influences are very evident in my current studio efforts on mark making, having been exposed to scores of old photographs from archeologists, missionaries and historians on the pre-colonial Igbo carvings, drawings and paintings.
“I improvised the wood workers’ pneumatic tools to reengage some of the cultural ideals as expressed in Igbo proverbs, poetry and songs.
“In these marked surfaces, old stories are retold to reflect on current social situations, while proffering possible solutions to contemporary issues.”
Speaking further, the artist disclosed that, whether thin, bold, slow or quick, curved and straight, gentle and rugged, lines in their deployment, express different moods and temperaments.
“Lines, Lines, Lines, remain the vital forte of my art, be it drawing, sculpture or batik”, he concluded.
Born in 1962, Chijioke Onuora is of the third generation of artists from the legendary Nsukka School, whose practices have been influenced by the use of power tools for surface marking introduced to the school by El Anatsui. Going beyond the logic of fragmentation that is fundamental to Anatsui’s work, Onuora employs these power tools on wood surfaces as an extension of his experiments with drawing and interest in classical Igbo art. This interest emerges from the artist’s extensive study of Igbo shrine art he has undertaken since 1986. Onuora currently teaches drawing and sculpture at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he lives and works.
Mark Making runs at Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, from October 30 – November 19, 2022.