Gallery lifts sector with artist-in-residence programme

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One of the works produced by Oyedemi at the Alexis Art Residency in Lagos…recently

As a resource platform, Alexis Galleries, a facility in Victoria Island, the growing art hub of West Africa, took a broad initiative recently with the admission of six artists – John Oyedemi, Samuel Tete-Kancharn, Oyelusi Olasunkanmi, Olorunyemi Kolapo, Sunday Isaac Effiiong and Oluwole Omofemi – for its artist-in-residence programme.

Since it opened eight years ago, the art house has provided a platform for young professionals to show their works and for established artists to enjoy its mentoring process. For the latest residency, Oyedemi, a lecturer at the University of Jos, is the mentor figure.

Patsy Chidiac, the curator at Alexis, said, “the programme would continue to hold at least twice a year in order for the participants to inspire one another.”

Chidiac cited example of Oyedemi, who is helping to mentor younger artists around.

Artist-in-residence programme allows for experimentation with new concepts, styles, materials and technique and this is noticeable in works produced by Oyedemi during the programme.

With quite some linear texture, the painting is a deviation from his usual style and technique. “My lines are about creating harmony in vertical and horizontal projections,” he explained. “I believe in using and achieving free and organic lines against mechanical types.”

As academic as Oyedemi sounded, his experience and approach confirmed the free and non-informal essence of art residency.

Still on his gain, Oyedemi disclosed how Omofemi’s ‘Afro series’ paintings ‘fascinated’ him and showed how things ‘uncommon’ could be done with materials.

Whatever the prejudice Oyedemi hitherto had for formal mentorship programmes, this has since changed. He recalled his initial reservations. But as he got more involved, and with keen attention, “we started bonding.”

He said, “coming here will impact greatly on my students back in Jos. I hope to collaborate with Alexis Galleries in future.”

Kolapo, on his part, has gained invaluable experience from the programme. He appreciates the non-academic, non-competitive environment. “This is my third time here and it’s far bigger than the previous. It’s been more impacting,” he said. “We are happy to have Oyedemi among us.”

The international flavour of the residency came with the Ghanaian artist, Tete-Kancharn, whose focus are painting and sculpture.

Commending Chidiac for providing grants to buy materials, Tete-Kancharn said his experience is like that of somebody being in another school. “Though, residency, I call it school.”

The programme had its community value, even in Victoria Island, which is a central business district. “A lot of people came here to see us, and perhaps, benefitted from our works in the community.”

Workspace appeal comes in diverse ways, most artists, however, prefer quiet and serene studio environment. For Omofemi, Victoria Island was a new and exciting experience to work. “I always liked quiet and no high-rise building space, but here I have been able to adapt working with the different and crowded environment.”

The literary energy from which artists draw strength is also crucial at residency. Chidiac agreed, but assured that as a growing facility, “in future, we will improve with library.”

With a growing army of young artists in Nigeria, selection for residency – particularly at Alexis Galleries’ haven for new talents – could be challenging. “We select two up-and-coming artists and one big artist,” Chidiac clarified. “Next residency will feature four artists from abroad and two here”.

And when the six artists show their works at Alexis, hopefully, in October, the gallery would have strengthened its eight years resume of showcasing African artists in Lagos.