Lockdown New York

Here’s the story of my life during this pandemic written by Okey Uwaezuoke in today’s ThisDay Newspapers- https://okeysworld.wordpress.com/2020/04/26/in-new-york-and-smack-in-a-pandemic/

The Family House

Our home in the village sits at the crossroads where 3 roads meet. So it must be a magical place to live in. I remember waking up on some mornings to find a basket full of sacrifices on the road. My young friend Nonso is a thriving native doctor. I must ask him why this is important. The sacrifices seem to have reduced, since I put a strong searchlight in front of my house. I needed to light up the area, as some young vandals had come to steal the battery from the NDDC solar lamp post. Apart from playing soccer, people come to the field of Trinity High School to learn to drive. I have taught some friends on this field. The cattle sellers drive their cows to graze here also. From my vantage point on the second floor, I drew inspiration for some of the images in my series of paintings A Thousand Cattle, Two Hills. As night falls, people come there to smoke weed, etcetra… The vast space has allowed me to enjoy working on larger canvases. My latest canvas cannot even fit into the door to my studio, so I have to paint outdoors. I am free here. The spaces are for flying. The air is light. The lake is nearby. This is truly home.

Abstract colors, More liberties

Detail of a work in progress, mixed media painting, 2017. 

In this blog, I have written extensively about my work, the creative process, and the figurative. It has become more important to dwell on the abstractions that seem to be taking centre-stage all around us.

Uli has shown us a way of looking at space, engaging it in a way that conveys meaning. Lines and shapes loaded with meaning are juxtaposed with negative bleak spaces that totally shriek in their silence.

Turning it around, the artist considers the power of that non-representational element as subject matter, relocation into deep meditation of color fields. Traditional notions of color no longer apply, nor restrain. Thus, color has gained an independence in its total abstraction- color is the new white noise in artistic communication.

The intention to emphasize local identity is lost on the new international that crosses borders at will. Appropriating passing fancies, one must acknowledge them as relevant memories; hallmarks from journeys, with a cognizance for seeing that in front lies an unfamiliar path that may demand new conversations/interactions. Or else, the artist becomes the bogeyman.

The body of work creates new imagery- exploring an eclectic embodiment- a morpheme of spatial representation. Visual elements are turned on their head- harmony, space, contrast, and balance. Everything is introverted to ‘work’ on the mind where it really counts. External superficialities are done away with in a signature economic style- the work is the reason. The reason is the work.

Reality is a dent on the conscience of the creative, holding ransom all notions and actions towards progress. Concurrently, one must hold on to fantasy- to the subconscious world of dreams as a vision for navigating the psychedelic, hybrid subcultures of today’s world. All accepted standards may fail in the circumstances; boundaries and borders melt away (standing only as a physical presence at the most). Time and Space suddenly embrace to become one experience.

Color is language, identity and representational subject serving all intents of the artist. Color can only be interpreted on a personal level, irreverent to all else. Herein lays the bane of the tribal art grouping- this melting point that allows no measures/ standards to retrain the use or absence of interpretative color.

Having learned drawing, we unlearn drawing. Drawing pretends to unravel the spatial feel of things, working as a witness to a ‘presence’. In turn around, drawing is the real presence. These are tangible existential ideas- generally cultures acknowledge an ‘other’ life separate from this one. Man then begins to ask his place- is this or that the ‘real’ life? To and fro, the tussle becomes the very matter of contention between Realism and Abstraction, the signifier and the amplifier.  

Our visual senses mediate in between engaging and nurturing the mind. Truth is- we know nothing. Let all knowledge begin from there to interrogate meaning.

African Ceramics at the Crossroads (?): An Interdisciplinary Conference in Honour of Michael OBrien

This is a notice and call for papers from Ozioma Onuzulike, MFA, Ph.D.Conference Liaison:

The Ceramics Researchers Association of Nigeria (CeRAN), in collaboration with the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Energy Centre, UNN and Project Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu, Nigeria announces its 13th annual conference and exhibition

Theme: Modernising African Ceramics Since the 1900s: Agencies, Agents and Outcomes

Venue: Energy Centre, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria Date: 25-28 October, 2016

It has been severally observed that pottery in Africa ran into a variety of difficulties following the introduction of new methods of production and other social transformations associated with the colonial encounter. The Igbo of south-eastern Nigeria appear to have captured it better in one of its maxims: Onye ite abụghị onye ahịa, literally meaning “the potter is not in business”.

Looking back to the terrain of modern African ceramics since the 1900s, this conference examines the following key questions: What have constituted the agencies of modernisation in African ceramics over the past millennium and what have been the implications? Who have been the key agents of the modernising process? What have been the innovations and challenges associated with African ceramics modernity? Ceramics researchers, potters, curators, writers and scholars of art history, art education, economics, geology, anthropology, archaeology, engineering, and related disciplines are invited to submit paper proposals addressing these or related questions, including issues surrounding the following sub-themes:

  • Contemporary traditional potters in Africa and the challenges of modernity
  • Landmarks in modern African pottery
  • Ceramics and the decolonisation of curriculum in African educational institutions: Previous issues and current directions.
  • The making of modern potters and potteries in Africa: Histories, processes and products.
  • Pottery painting in African metropolises: Creative innovation or emblems of production problems?
  • Domestication of modern ceramics tools and production technology in Africa: Challenges and breakthroughs
  • Ceramics industries in Africa: Yesterday, today and tomorrow
  • Ceramics raw materials utilization and development
  • Geology, Archaeology, Engineering and African ceramics since the 1900s
  • Ceramics and greenhouse technology
  • Ceramics education and educators in Africa since the 1900s
  • Potters, potteries and their practices in a developing economy
  • Commercialisation of African pottery in a globalised world

This conference is a tribute to the many agents of the struggle for a viable ceramics production on the continent, especially Michael OBrien, the British potter and influential teacher who succeeded Michael Cardew at the Abuja Pottery Training Centre in 1965 and who has relentlessly worked for the well being of many important potters and potteries in Nigeria since the 1970s. Insightful papers on the life and work of OBrien and other such pioneers are also welcome.

Due Date for paper abstracts: 31st August 2016

Length: 200 words or less

Additional information: Institutional or other affiliations, email and phone contacts

Submissions: Send as attached email document in MS-Word to Dr. Ozioma Onuzulike (Conference Liaison) at ozioma.onuzulike@unn.edu.ng and May Ngozi Okafor (LOC Secretary) at may.okafor@unn.edu.ng.

Exhibition: The conference will feature an exhibition of works by individuals and organizations working in the ceramics field that reflect aspects of the conference theme. Interested participants should email two or more images of proposed works in JPEG along with a list of works and brief biodata in MS Word. Due date is 31st August 2016. Selected works should arrive latest October 24, 2016 at 12 noon.

Schedule of Events: Arrival: October 24; Opening: October 25; Departure: October 28. (A detailed schedule of events will be emailed to participants in due course).

NB:Pls open attached PDF document for other details-CFP_CeRAN African Ceramics Conference 2016. We look forward to welcoming you at Nsukka!


Untitled…When Words are not Enough

Untitled II, 120x120cm, mixed media painting, 04/2016

In times past, one would label a painting’s title as ‘untitled for one of two reasons-maybe one did not think up an appropriate title; or the artist simply forgot to give a title for his piece. A few weeks ago, I made two pieces that didn’t fit this category. The paintings came together as the days passed, growing outwards in ways that I quickly appropriated. One of the paintings was executed wholly in oils, while the other was a mixed media painting. The later was twice the size of the former.

This time around, ‘Untitled ‘ became the device for adding volume to the presence of the paintings. This title (or lack of a specific title, if you want) open-ended the meaning and reading of the artwork. The artist suddenly decided to allow his audience to ascribe meanings. The viewer has joined in completing the creative process, assuming the role of authentic interpreter, and co-interpreter. There is no mystery actually. Sometimes, especially in the times we live in, things don’t have clear-cut answers. The question is the answer. Silence becomes potent, loaded with insinuations and allusions. Truth becomes a many-sided mirror set. What you see is your view. It is intimate.

Untitled, 120 x 73cm, oil on canvas, 04/2016

Flash…or Enduring Success?

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. — Pablo Picasso

IMG_3834Success for the young artist is a most dangerous thing. It is easy to stop working creatively when the applauds gets so loud. The creative muse seems to easily fall captive to the dinge of popularity. Then comes the silent moments of feeling so achieved, self-sufficient and crowned as king.
The success of every exhibition is the apex and death of a phase of the artist’s life work. There is the temptation of lingering on the mountain of success for a while- it is safe camp, and the land has yielded its fruit abundantly. The period blocks every new vision and dream.
Again, this kind of event is cause for the artist to not live a fully art-dependent life. After all, life goes on from the mountaintop, up or down. One will always prefer the upside of things, always. It takes the sighting of something ephemeral to see beyond. It is also unfortunate because, at this time, the artist is still bloated from recent success. The heady feeling is overwhelming.
To begin again, one must also begin new dialogues. One soon discovers how instrumental hunger can become in molding the artist.

The Hot Mister Burns

Mister Burns
Mister Burns chilling in my studio

If you ever meet him you would agree that Mister Burns has style, a personal style. He wears clothes with a playful attitude that ignores popular culture. He is totally an artist with a love for learning and new knowledge.Emmanuel Dudu introduced him to me, way back in the days when i moved around everywhere with a pencil and sketchpad in hand, drawing at every pause along the way. That afternoon way back, we chilled at his apartment off Adeniyi Jones Avenue in Ikeja. He cooked with a relish and will to please and surprise the taste-buds, After that, we smoked and I got that kind of happy that liberates me to paint without thinking about the use or costs.

Mister Burns knew how to inspire my muse-he has arguably the largest collection of my non-figurative works. I think he only paid with good food, music, and smoke. Then, that was all I needed to make me paint. It was not like I liked eating. Being a fairly good cook myself, I liked tasting good food. Burns Effiom has grown to be a recognizable face in the art world of Nigeria. He is also reputable as an interior designer,

We shared stories about friends and acquaintances, war stories and journeys, and explored the night pleasures on the dark streets of Allen Avenue. The only thing that really mattered to us was being artists. I don’t recall discussing business. 

Whenever he visits my studio, he would rush at the secondhand Vanity Fair magazines I often bought from Broad street, Lagos. He absorbed all the information in the pages, and it became more obvious to me that he took in the text as deeply as I enjoyed the pictures in Vanity Fair. We would drink a bottle of red wine and talk Art till its time to go home. Our friendship paid bountifully for any flaws.I took this shot of Mister Burns a few days ago, when he came to check out my new studio space on Ado road, Ajah. He dresses for artists. You wont mistake his swag for anything less._MG_0821-Edit

Musings around empty tubes of paint

FOREST DANCE, Charcoal and watercolour,                        It is a hard life to live. there are days when inspiration is far from me-everything that should be painted has already been painted. El( Anatsui) would imply that there is nothing new in modern painting. I am convinced that Painting is all about copying appearances.

The Artist would only become an echo of life, like a dark shadow that is cast when the sun is high. I occasionally scribble and drip paint like a conjurer, then stir it about the canvas in search of hidden meaning. Art is Magic, or Ritual depending on the point one encounters it. Living is also an Art- a great drama played to an ever-changing audience. Content in Art can either be directly or indirectly applied. Every stroke of the brush is a suggestion, an idea quite like the lines drawn on a screen by a life support monitor.       IMG_1487s

Man desperately struggles to be heard, to be recognised. Identity is also a hard thing to contemplate. From different perspectives, Man changes. Again sometimes, we wear masks and act out a part for chosen situations and our audience. Artists are quite independent spirits, given to flights of passion and fancy. He is the actor, and also his own judge. This brings friction with the environment. Once in a while, a Man passes by, who understands it all.                      A DREAM AND A PRAYER, charcoal