Much as the landscape of non-traditional materials in mixed media expression has widened, very few artists, who work in that medium, have convincing stories to tell.
Most commonly used, perhaps, to nauseating taste, are textile materials, either on canvas or sculptural expressions.
The textile or fabric-polluted Lagos art landscape will attract your attention immediately you walk into Uzoma Samuel Anyanwu’s solo exhibition titled, Fabrication, currently showing at Thought Pyramid Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Loosely, the title of Anyanwu’s show gives out the most likely contents of works, particularly, with no presence of any fabrication — in the common understanding — such as, objects or floor sculpture inside the gallery space. However, purging yourself of biases, perhaps, is the best way to enjoy the works.
With a free mind, the viewer will be able to appreciate the bold and loud application of fabrics on display.
Painted portraits, mounted on left side of the gallery, still exude the opening’s aura days after. Interestingly, the portrait of ladies, grouped under Sisi Eko Series, and that of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, expose genuine and convincing application of fabric materials beyond the bandwagon effect.
Anyanwu’s Sisi Eko series aren’t as traditional as you’ll think; they are fabric collage with acrylic on canvas. In fact, as painterly as one of the series, Yellow Scarf, appears, it’s actually not a painting, but a fabric collage.
For others in the series like, Homage to Ike Frances and Yellow Scarf II, the artist’s dexterity in collage is resplendent. Same for Governor Ambode, a portrait that reverberates the Lagos State helmsman’s feminine mien.
Like most artists, who, subconsciously, surrender their creativity to concepts, Anyanwu is nearly caught in that web.
Two works, Bathers, a silhouette against checkered texture, and Rebirth, embossed off the canvas, rescue the artist from falling into the trap of materials overwhelming creative contents.
Specifically, Bathers reveal a coalition of optical illusion and sculptural effect. The work derives its strength more from the concept as well as the composition than the fabric materials used.
Between simplified expressions and loud application of materials, Anyanwu grows bolder as the exhibits unfold in the gallery space.
And why not?
Radical and avant-garde expressions thrive more in such elaborate and aggressive emphasis on materials.
If you think that Bathers and The Rebirth, two large works in woven fabrics and acrylic on canvas, speak so much on materials, others like, Eko and Untitled — mounted farther down the gallery — are more explicit.
Every artist’s fabric narrative says so much about the depth of how their visual contents interact with the materials.
For Anyawu, it’s a story he grew up with before becoming artist. His mother’s job as a seamstress, he recalls, exposed him to waste fabrics.
And for quite a long time, before producing his current works, Anyanwu has been collecting waste fabrics. “I was just collecting, but didn’t know exactly what to do with them until recently.”
However, his relationship with fabrics, long before he started collecting, he argues, adds up to the fact that “as an artist, I believe you give out what you have absorbed so far, over a period of time.”
Within the global context, his collection of waste fabrics would later find a focal point in his future.
“Fabrics are global identities that unite humanity; each of my work has uncountable pieces from different part of the world collaged in one face revealing diverse cultural motifs and symbols,” Anyanwu explains. “Fabrication examines how we constructively construct and live in our society; intertwining of human visible infrastructures and natural endowments, and our speedy embrace of digital life, as globalisation is the new way of life.”
In 2016, Anyanwu showed as a photographer in the group show of Chinese contents titled, Coming To China at GAC Motors, Victoria Island, Lagos. Then, his creative dexterity wasn’t exactly noticed in Lagos art circuit.
Two years after, and showing mixed media paintings, Anyanwu still cherishes his photography exploits. “As a painter and photographer, my paintings and photographs compliments each other, therefore in this exhibition we will encounter deliberate efforts at photographic looking paintings like, Lady in Red and other works, which originally are composed models captured by my camera,” he says.
Artistic Director, Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Jeff Ajueshi, in a gallery statement, describes the show as the process of producing ‘new’ artistic contents.
Excerpts from Thought Pyramid statement reveals: “The use of fabric, which stems from the influence of his mother as a tailor expertly creates a rich blend of colours in his works which enriches the works and helps pass across his message or view in an extraordinarily meticulous manner.
“The medium chosen for these works carries the viewers along on a journey and still manages to resonate deep emotions that every viewer relates with.”
Fabrication is more than just piecing fabrics together; it is a body of work that challenged the artist to dig deep into his emotions. It is a body of work that fascinates every viewer and sparks conversations.
Enjoy the prodigious skill of Anyanwu.”