BusinessDay

Meet young artists at Crossroads

On August 6, 2022, art lovers, collectors and guests at Wheatbaker Hotel Ikoyi, Lagos, witnessed the opening of one the most-engaging exhibitions of the year.

From the title, ‘Crossroads’, the exhibition is taking the public to the worlds of 11 young talents who are currently navigating the African art scene, demanding space for alternative expressions.

The artists include; Adeniyi Adewole, Ashiata Shaibu, The Creatus, Boluwatife Lawal, Christopher Samuel Idowu, Kevwe Eru, David Ibukun Oniyide, Francis Nwajiaku Uche, Odia Odibo, Ikenna Obinka and Victor Sonoiki, who combined to feature 33 enthralling works across many genres; from paintings, sculptures, photographs and to mixed-media.

The young artists aged between 20-29 years were excited at participating in the exhibition, as well as speaking out for their generation through their works, which show deep awareness and sensibilisation regarding diverse issues and challenges.

As well, each of the artists delves into themes, which explore culture, personal freedom, mental health and identity within a pressurized and over-populated urban landscape, bringing youth to often feel at “crossroads” in their lives.

The works also delve into the mindscapes of young talent as they grapple with critical decisions in the midst of tense socio-economic global and local realities which have a pivotal impact on their futures.

Looking at the works, The Creatus, Ashiata Shaibu and Adeniyi Adewole all touch on the subject of freedom highlighting coming-of-age struggles with self-expression and self-actualization.

The works by Kevwe Eru, David Ibukun Oniyide, and Victor Sonoiki delve into the global mental health crisis facing youth on an individual and communal level.

Boluwatife Lawal, Samuel Idowu, Francis Nwajiaku Uche and Ikenna Obinka use their art to explore culture, identity and human connections by analyzing how history and politics shape our daily experience, and the conflicts and contradictions resulting from these realities.

The pensive gazes on Christopher Samuel Idowu and Odia Odibo’s subjects hint at a sense of uncertainty and introspection that comes with making life changing decisions. Idowu’s aged palette highlights the importance of each moment, while Odia’s lush white beards give his subjects a sense of quiet maturity.

Boluwatife Lawal, Francis Nwajiaku Uche and Ikenna Obinka use their art to explore culture, identity and human connections by analyzing how history and politics shape our daily experience, and the conflicts and contradictions resulting from these realities.

On a closer look, Lawal uses swirls of vibrant colour to represent the synergy and cooperation between two beings, while Obinka’s portraits stare back defiantly in the face of societal oppression.

Nwajiaku Uche fuses traditional Igbo and Catholic iconography to examine the parallels between historical and modern realities.

Speaking at the exhibition, Odibo Odiabhehor Joseph, a protégée of George Edozie, could not hide his excitement and dream come true experience.

The accountant turned visual artist, who is living in Lagos, believes that life has some hidden beauty, and it is the job of artists to show it through their art. “My works explore the range of human emotions, and how these emotions can be communicated in a two-dimensional reality.

My use of colors and form helps break down the barriers imposed on people by modern society, revealing my belief in free expression of human emotion”, he said.

Adeniyi Adewole Wasiu, a contemporary figurative sculptor and studio artist, enjoys modeling with clay and fiberglass casting, and also accentuates his subjects with a lavish use of colour.

“I refer to my works as hybrid sculptures, where I have animal heads juxtaposed on human bodies. The essence of this is to use animal qualities and characteristics to talk about human character and attitudes. I use this to explore themes of human and animal characterization to explain life’s complexities and contradictions, and my personal experiences”, he said.

The intrigue at the exhibition for many is Kevwe Eru, a lawyer turned visual artist.

The Edo State-born, who trained as a lawyer at University of Benin, chose to explore her interest in the creative arts with photography as her first medium of expression, but over the years, she has fused it with digital art and other media.

In her practice, she takes inspiration from the sciences, spirituality, nature and the human form. “Sometimes the mind is our biggest enemy. It turns against us and chokes us.

I believe that this is false. We are not our minds. We are something greater. Something the mind cannot even fathom. The mind isn’t the pilot. WE ARE”, she insisted.

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So also Obinka Ikenna, a self-taught artist, who embraced art as a passion after completing a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike. The tale of the creative ingenuity of the participating artists abounds.

However, the exhibition is a big break for Majid Biggar, the curator. Biggar, who works with SMO Contemporary Art, the organisers of the exhibition, is debuting as a curator with the ‘Crossroads’.

He is very excited to pull through with the exhibition and with such a huge number of artists in his first outing ever.

“The exhibition is dominated by works, which focus on black figuration with an unapologetic, direct gaze”, explained Biggar.

“It was important for us to identify artists who can vividly depict these crucial internal battles youth face at the crossroads of their lives. These eleven artists’ Afrocentric, fresh take on global coming of age issues is exciting and also very thought provoking.”

But credit goes to The Wheatbaker Hotel, for offering Nigerian artists opportunity to excel in their craft since opening the hotel over a decade ago.

Speaking on the continued support of the artists, Paul Kavanagh, the hotel’s general manager said, “The Wheatbaker is delighted to continue to be an important platform for showcasing young talent in Africa”.

“Over the past decade our walls have provided artists the opportunity of using their creativity to question and demand for better options. The Wheatbaker continues to provide a safe space for our youth to lead the way. ”

The Crossroads exhibition opened on August 6, 2022 and will run until October 7, 2022 at The Wheatbaker Hotel, located at # 4 Lawrence Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.

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