By Henry Akubuiro
Currently showing at the upscale Art Twenty One, Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, is a solo exhibition, Facade, by one of Nigeria’s greatest contemporary artists, Bruce Onobrakpeya. The exhibition, which started showing on December 12, 2020, will last till April 10, 2021.
It is off a series of exhibitions launched last year in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Bruce Onobrakpeya’s studio practice.
Onobrakpeya, informed Art Twenty One, “sets a precedent in innovation as seen in the formulation of bases for his various productions. This is visible in his intervention and use of the triptilinen canvas, upon which imprints of his artistic expression are made.
“The canvas, a combination of paper, linen and regular canvas was developed about 15 years ago and the artist in foresight of his continuous developments of past works, has effectively made it into a permanent base that assures the ease of replicating a motif to be reexamined for its ultimate result and value.
“The exhibits have been segmented to cover various periods and thematic exploits of Onobrakpeya’s artistry and displayed in the show, features, Folktales and Myths; Cultural Expedition and Religion of the People; Social Unrest; Atasa Series, among others. They explore a diverse scope of subject matters that are peculiar to the messages treated by the artist…. “
Guest curated by Kehinde Ekundayo, Facade is her second outing with Onobrakpeya. The first was Beauty and the Machine, which happened to be the first of the series of shows that launched his 60th anniversary series.
Said Ekundayo: “For this show, the aim or concept is to show paintings that have never been seen before. In this sense, we even have fabrics that are being presented as paintings. For the artist. Paintings are simply the use of colours —how do you represent colours in your work? That is what comes as paintings to him.
“You must know, he was officially trained as a painter before becoming recognised for his printmaking styles. It is his know-how to tell you what a painting is. He has been here for over 60 years, and you can’t come to contest whatever he posits as an insight into this technique.
“The reason for his going towards that direction is because, when it comes to African art, you cannot project African art in the light of western concepts. For this show, he will tell you the earliest discoveries of African art were markings, paints, pigments on caves and even the walls of the houses of our great grandparents, even to our bodies —colours on three dimensional surfaces. Here, you will see fabrics posited as paintings; you are seeing plastocast paintings. That is the facade.”
Bruce Onobrekpeya told Daily Sun he had been working for over 60 years, and it was necessary to reexamine what he had been doing —bring the works out and let people make some comments. But, on realising he couldn’t bring out his works in one exhibition wasn’t going to be possible, he decided to serialise them.
“I have had one at Freedom Park and another at Wheatbaker Hotel, both in Lagos, and the third one is holding here. There is a possible fourth or fifth one to come before the entire retrospection is over. I want to be able, personally, to see what I have done and let people, too, examine and draw ideas to compare and analyse my creativity over these 60 years.”
Also famous for the Harmattan Workshop at Agbara-Otor, which has trained a lot of artists and craftsmen, he urged the government to support efforts in that direction: “The government must have provisions to help the people who are doing that kind of thing so that art will touch the grassroots, and not focus only on university trained artists and places like this, but also people who will create works in order to make daily living.”
Sunshine Alaibe is the Artists and Clients Relations Officer at Art Twenty One, Eko Hotels and Suites. She told Daily Sun: “With a team of seasoned individuals, we have been keeping Art Twenty One afloat, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. In our field, where everything is done physically, it is difficult to achieve that, but we have to move to a digital platform to keep our business running.”
For Facade, she was grateful for Art Twenty One’s loyal collectors for patronising the latest exhibition: “We have been lucky again in this exhibition to get a lot of demands for Bruce Onobrakpeya, the most legendary contemporary artist in Nigeria.”
She is optimistic 2021 is going to be better for business at Art Twenty One: “We are hopefully going to keep hosting physical exhibitions so that people will see the artworks as opposed to just seeing them online. We encourage social distancing and we observe all the Covid-19 protocols.
“Our space is a 600 square meter hall, which encourages social distancing. By 2021, we hope to have more events and exhibitions. We want to keep people excited about the arts,” she assured.