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Chijioke Onuora’s Marks of Dexterity and Spontaneity

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Despite his over three many years of artwork observe and renown as a trailblazer of the Nsukka Art School, Chijioke Onuora’s first-ever solo exhibition in Lagos marks a turning level in his profession. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke experiences

Isn’t it unusual that Chijioke Onuora’s debut solo present in Lagos is going down at a time when, in response to an unstated settlement, actions within the visible arts scene have a tendency to achieve a fever pitch? True: the selection of the Yaba-based Centre for Contemporary Art because the venue of this exhibition hardly qualifies as a grand entrance into the Lagos artwork scene. Nonetheless, the venue has an aura of exclusivity attributable to its historical past of internet hosting artists who’re revered within the artwork world.

Speaking of the exhibition, which is titled Chijioke Onuora: Mark Making, it captures the essence of this undeniably main dramatis personae from the Nsukka Art School, who simply celebrated his sixtieth birthday on Monday, May 30. “The exhibition examines the artist’s experimentation with drawing in various dimensions, processes, and media,” the Princeton University, US-based curator Iheanyi Onwuegbucha says concerning the present, which opens at the moment (October 30). “In this current body of works, Onuora has combined his multiple studio practice in sculpture, painting, batik, and drawing, in [the] exploration of drawing as a performative ritual of mark making.”  

Weaned on the aesthetics of his Igbo cultural legacy, the artist’s use of Uli motifs and experimenting with Ichi facial scarifications positions him as a useful resource individual and custodian of a quickly vanishing historic civilisation. As a former scholar of the famend painter and artwork historian Chike Aniakor, he was required to check cultures that had been on the verge of extinction in his village. This was how he found the shrine objects, which bore the Ichi marks on their faces, in his native Adazi-Ani in Anambra State. Over the years, he would evolve his trademark stylised formal expressions, which have their roots on this interval when he was researching these conventional sculptures present in his hometown. 

A phrase about Ichi: it’s a face scarification ceremony common among the many Igbo folks that qualifies wearers for induction into the aristocratic Nze na Ozo society, as mirrored by the Igbo identify for a titled chieftain, “Ichie.” This custom, which Onuora as soon as defined “waned with the advent of Christian colonisation, was preserved by the shrine art objects… The research brought me closer to the works, and I began to draw inspiration from them to create art. This was the genesis of my incursion into the Uli art.”

There is little doubt concerning the overwhelming affect of Uli artwork, which is the bedrock of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka lecturer’s studio observe. These vanishing artwork types are brimming with ancestral precepts as condensed metaphors. If they rework themselves into trendy contexts as a means of making sense of the present-day confusion, it’s as a result of the artist has recognised that the true progress of a individuals can solely be rooted in their very own tradition. Often, these types reincarnate within the artist’s studio observe as mask-like pictures (and largely as faces). “In other words, the forms and actions are summaries,” he disclosed in an earlier interview. 

Thus, this exhibition is not only about Onuora’s adaptation of this dying custom for its aesthetic ends but additionally its use as a instrument for partaking modern points. In their new life as his illustrations, they deal with trending occasions, that are primarily political and are typically expressed as jokes and proverbs. This inclination, which is a trademark of the Nsukka Art School, reached a crescendo through the interval between 1970 and 2000 by the works of such artists as Chike Aniakor, Obiora Udechukwu, Olu Oguibe, Krydz Ikwuemesi, and Chika Okeke-Agulu. According to Chikaogwu Kanu, one of the Onuora’s acolytes, “Nsukka School [exhibitions] were thematically political.”

Onuora, in the meantime, progressed to studying how to attract with charcoal from Ghanaian-born artwork lecturer Seth Anku after early publicity to Obiora Udechukwu’s pen and ink drawings, he progressed. Eventually, his trajectory culminated in his PhD diploma programme in artwork historical past analysis on the event of the pyrography approach of sculpture manufacturing by a slew of famend artists from the Nsukka Art School. Thanks to this method, which appeared to resonate with him since he linked it to strains, important options of draughtsmanship, took his artwork observe to a different degree. This is what Onwuegbucha highlights in his curatorial notice as his pushing “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.”

In his spontaneous meandering and often aggressive strains, Onuora’s expert use of compressed charcoal sticks is seen. Undoubtedly, the Uli-inspired items featured on this exhibition, which runs till Saturday, November 19, are eloquent testimonials of his artistic philosophy of over three many years, which is typified by forcefully explored strains that proclaim the nation’s socio-economic challenges from the rooftops. But in addition they sum up the artist’s unequalled business and versatility. Works just like the wooden set up “Ndi Gbulu Ichi” and the 2-D expressions within the “Neighbours” collection, for example, seethe with the artist’s intense artistic power.

Strange as it could sound, this exhibition and the artist’s earlier ones – particularly Ulukububa, held in 1999, and Akala Unyi in 2014 – barely scratch the floor of how prolific he has been.

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