Shrinking resources, generated from economic survival, and leading to displacement of people as key factors confronting policy makers across the world, stray into the palette of Nyemike Onwuka. With what appears like the artist’s new period in geometric art, the central theme about migration gets louder in his combined oeuvre and new techniques.
Simply titled Exodus, Onwuka’s body of work, which just showed at Signature Beyond Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos, hoves over two vulnerable victims of economic and political migrations: women and children. Interestingly, the artist’s Exodus is not just an extension of documented facts, from which reference could be tapped, but also include his “personal experience” and encounter with some victims outside Nigeria.
From a distinct signature of scratched canvas that creates aging perception, Onwuka, in Exodus, adds his new style, a checkered-like patterns described by the exhibition’s curator, Burns Effiom, as “new cubism.” And why not? Contemporaneity is expanding the art space across genres, such that one can’t really question a coinage such as “new cubism” a term in Onwuka’s art vocabulary, derived from the early 20th-century art movement linked to Pablo Picasso and Georges Brasque.
As complex as that coinage is, the paintings involved such as Hidden Brands series Kept Within, Light At The Exit, Unbroken, and Blurred Fantasies, assert the artist’s depth of lines and blending such with fragility of multicolour application to retain solid image that boosts the portraiture themes in generating an embossed effect. More emphatic is the optical effect generated, particularly in Blurred Fantasies series.
As regards the theme, Onwuka shares his experience of how “young women are forced into sex slavery abroad,” even in the so-called advanced democracy of western countries. The survival of the 21st century, he laments, make “women and children most vulnerable.
With a fresh found love in ‘new cubism’, it appears like the artist is gradually resting the scratched and decaying canvas technique, isn’t it? “I am not done yet with it,” Onwuka clarifies. Yes, so it seems; paintings from the techniques still dominate the exhibition.
“As art has no boundaries, so is my technique and style,” Onwuka assures.
The more one tries to create ventilation for Onwuka’s new cubism voc to escape through contemporary space, the further a conviction of complexity becomes salient. But the curator of Exodus, Effiom defends the artist’s concept of ‘new cubism’:”Onwuka is bridging the gap and bringing the contemporary into the avant garde.”
A curatorial note from Effiom explains further: “The artist favours fragmentations and geometrical forms. He has reduced his presentation to cubes and geometrical forms thus heightening his discourse. Because colours have forms and sub-forms, this swirling energy is even juxtaposed with his more popular oeuvres.
“His visual language is embedded with sympathy and empathy that inspires construction of communities through humanity, using painting and installation. Human personality as subject.
He delivers a powerful message while looking for solutions and creating solutions as if in agreement that in every challenge, so lies the seeds of solution.
“Tangible and intangible symbols fused together manifests in objects; colours; ideas that bellows his narrative further for a critical mass that he so desires to access the hope he intends for his subjects in Exodus.
“The use of installation can be of any kind. But the concern here is visual art. In this fold Simon Wilson and Jessica lack defined: Installation as the term used to describe mixed media construction or assemblage usually designed for a specific place and for a temporary period of time.”