By Simeon Mpamugoh
The tales of Godwin Archie Abia in visual art is one of grass to grace. With no formal training in art, the Win Arc Gallery boss soared to become a trailblazer of bone art and other forms, which have become well sought after by royalties in Nigeria.
The artist is renowned for bone art, which he learnt by divine providence. He later went to study History and International Relations at Lagos State University. The self taught artist began plying his trade in the highbrow area of Ikeja, but on Saturday, December 19, 2020, he is opening a new art gallery at 75, 2nd Avenue, Peace Estate, Baruwa, Ipaja, Lagos.
He said. “Win Arc Gallery has been serving the art Community across Nigeria and beyond for more than 25yrs ago. The outlet, which has been quietly put in place in the past few years, is already creating art appreciation awareness in its new location. Apart from our focus on creating new art collectors and sustaining the existing clientele, we will also inspire young artists within and outside the Ipaja axis so that art appreciation and skills can spread on the mainland.”
He revealed in an interactive with art journalists that the gallery “boasts for collection all encompassing art out with art works across all generations: painting, sculptures and mixed media,” adding, “the new location will boost programmes such as summer art class, hosting schools for practical and creating an environment for art excursion and exhibition.”
He disclosed that his arc on bone art form began in 1995. “I went to the Abattoir and bought cow horn, came back and engaged a boy to cut it and draw it for me with an ordinary machine. The process was very tedious. At a point, I couldn’t get bone again when they demolished the Oshodi market; I went to Abattoir in Agege until it became difficult to get cow horn because they said they were exporting it.
“I asked God what to do next because He called me into it and I don’t have anything else to do. This is where I dreamt seeing somebody in my grandfather’s house teaching me how to paint. I was not painting when the bone art idea came and because of the art form and the media help, I made a lot of friends who are painters playing brotherly roles in my journey into art. They would come, look at my works, critique it and provide me with direction.
“Many of them who played vital roles in developing the bone art are still my friends till date. I left bone art and began to paint. When I noticed everybody was into painting, I came up with graven art and oil painting. It is not just an ordinary painting; I built in other materials to enrich it more than just painting. And so far, the patronage has been encouraging,” he explained.
Abia brings divinity into his art; he says it helps to attract more viewers and collectors of his artworks. “The spirit is one. Though there are other spirits that are not of God, which enhances creative energy. In every artwork, there is original and also fake. But I can tell you that I’m on the side of the original which ensures that what I’m divinely given is what I represent. In life, there are two sides to a coin, there is white and black. So, I’m on the side of white which represents something brilliant. I can’t be a supporter of anything black because going by what black represents, I can’t excel there and no one sees in darkness.
“In my over 25 years in art, most of my documented works in the early days tend towards an artist with relationship with God. I have some works that evangelize my relationship with God. It was during the middle of my sojourn in art I tilt towards contemporary because I wouldn’t want to be labeled a dogmatic person. It is the same God that created white and black. Human beings create dichotomy but I believe I must associate with everyone even though I might not pander to everything people do.
“In one of my works entitled; “Homage to God,” I reflected that relationship I have with God, the title derives from a story of a tree in my town called Nkubia which is where the name of the town originated. If you are poor or lack the fruit of the womb, you approach the tree. Though it has been cut down, yet we still have the street named after the tree. In the work, you will see the cross on top of the tree trunk showing the supremacy of Christ over deity,” he narrated.
On the expectations for the unveiling of the gallery, he explained, “When I closed Win Arc Gallery Ikeja, It became a burden to me to open another one. Though this one is closer to the grassroots, I thank God for making it possible. I may not gather a lot of crowd for this show because of the COVID-19 social distancing protocol of the government but I want the world to know that Win Arc Gallery has a new place.
“The aim is to redirect art from the Island to the Mainland and drive it to the grassroots. Some government functionaries don’t know that some Lagos grassroots and interior portions of the roads are bad. Some of the transformers are provided by the residents. In our own estate, it is the residents that repair the roads, and buy the transformers that supply electricity to the zones in the estate. In fact, almost every infrastructure in the area is supplied by the residents. So having the art gallery in the area would create awareness and appraisal of development in the area by government functionaries we are going to be inviting during exhibitions and art will also appreciate in the community,” he stated.
An art critic and journalist Awa Omiko described Godwin Archie Abia as the pacesetter and man of the moment. “His works are value-laden and carry a lot of messages, which are hidden for the discerning mind to unfurl. And with the materials used, one can see that the works are durable. The messages cut across boundaries. For instance, in the work entitled ‘Stop the killing,’ produced some years ago, the message is still topical up till now.
“His painting on canvas is also unique and extraordinary. He moved from bone art form to graven image and to facebook app in the social media thus keying into the new normal which has further projected his works. One can see that he is reaping from it while others are thinking how to key into it,” Omiko noted.