A habitué of Temple Muse, a luxury store located on Victoria Island, Lagos, would know it is also home to elegant art and enthusiastic art aficionados. The crispy white walls on the inside acts is a perfect background for the arts works hanging all over the place.
Over time, it has presented a catalogue of works and artists that resonate global issues that mirror the African culture. Across various works in ceramic, painting, pottery expressed through various techniques fresh ideas; dynamism and honest conversations around the intersection between art and the society have kicked off there.
Ushering in the last quarter of the Lagos art season, STASIS, a group exhibition showcasing 47 paintings, drawings and ceramic works by three contemporary artists from Nigeria and Cameroon, has opened to the public at Temple Muse, from Monday, September 2nd. Curated by SMO Contemporary Art, the exhibition features recent works by Djakou Kassi Nathalie, Olawunmi Banjo, and Kelechi Nwaneri, who explore the meaning of balance and belonging in surreal physical and emotional landscapes.
The three artists –two West Africans and a Cameroonian– draw us into a complex dialogue from three radically different viewpoints. Through detailed paintings, layered and complex drawings, and experimental ceramic works, each artist explores the tension between the conscious and subconscious mind.
Djakou Kassi Nathalie, who appears older of the trio, is sure the clay talks to her .In her mid-career, which started with a full scholarship at the Institut Samba Superieur in Yaounde, Cameroon, she has taken part in numerous exhibitions in Europe and the United States.
Djakou Kassi’s works are earth centered, reflecting a fascination with the grandeur of nature in relation to humanity’s miniscule scale, yet hugely destructive impact on the planet. The red laterite earth of her childhood in Cameroon is reflected in her rugged earthen vessels, wall hangings, and sculptures.
Her sculpted pots, bowls, and plates are covered with symbols and masks, inspired by shared African communal values, and a quintessential tension between modernity and tradition. She says her inspiration comes from looking at people’s faces, observing the structure of a family.
In contrast, the self-taught painter, who appears to be more outspoken, Olawunmi Banjo, presents her latest series of portraits of lone figures. Banjo’s hyper-realistic elegant style embraces a primarily blue colour palette and exhibits a deep sense of symmetry by creating a pathway to a deepened sense of self-awareness and identity through her acrobatic figures.
Banjo focuses on the self. She uses her works to reveal what it means to know one’s self and how that knowledge can help improve the individual and the society. She features eight bodies of works that pops out with figures rendered in twisted, intertwined, and tightly woven wires and ropes in different yoga-like poses. She says the wires represent all the energy within a person.
Kelechi Nwaneri’s charcoal and acrylic drawings on paper and canvas are a complex creative counter-point to the works by the two older, female artists. Nwaneri is in his early twenties. His multi-layered, charged landscapes, populated by masked mythical figures covered with uli, nsibidi, adinkra and adire symbols, portray an emotional depth beyond his years.
Nwaneri is inspired by pencil realism and is heavily influenced by West African iconography and allegory. Through a world rich in allegory and mythological expressions, he tackles issues surrounding mental health. His muscled, male forms in combat, touch on the emotional and psychological wrestling we do to achieve balance and self-awareness. His use of animals he says, “completes the picture”.