Recent Works By Rom Isichei and Kainebi Osahenye

An exhibition of 35 recent paintings and mixed media works by leading contemporary Nigerian artists Rom Isichei and Kainebi Osahenye opened to the public on March 23 at Temple Muse. Curated by Sandra Obiago, the exhibition is supported by Temple Muse and Ruinart and runs till the end of April.

Rom Isichei’s 15 works are mostly figurative in composition, exploring the society’s self-obsession and excess consumerism while searching for ideal beauty. His large works are sometimes heavily textured, sculptural mixed-media paintings in which he employs glue, sawdust, acrylic paste, and even kitchen towels to build up tactile surfaces. At other times, he employs intricate lines and strokes. His subjects are contemplative, while inhabiting a world of ‘red’ energy, expertly juxtaposed by quiet reflective gazes. Isichei’s broad stylistic diversity is also evident in four unique archival prints from his Deification series in which he presents faces created out of found objects including corks, wire, plastic plates, clips and even a cleaning mop, over which he paints and drizzles with intense abandonment.

According to the artist, “The Deification series are mixed media, enhanced archival prints that reference themes of consumerism, excess, and object transmutation which negotiate between local and global culture,”

Interestingly, Osahenye makes a radical departure from his renowned large-scale installations to intricately layered photo-collages that explore recurrent themes like materiality, spirituality, instability and redemption. Here, the digitally manipulated images are derived from specially commissioned photographs of the eyes of about 12 separate individuals that include a young family, as well as their neighbours and friends. The carefully chosen people all share a common thread. They are less than average income earners including automobile mechanics, carpenters and plumbers, whose daily existence is determined largely on harsh economic realities and poor social infrastructure, occasioned by a corrupt political class.

Multiples of the ‘eyes’ are carefully pasted across canvases covered with acrylic, enamel and spray paint, at once metaphors for a suffocating, over-populated society, seeking stability and redemption. Amongst his work is the series, Isolation, composed of paintings of the human form, folded inwards and suspended across planes of colour. Close observation again reveals hundreds of ‘eyes’ that individually and collectively serve as a strong social and moral conscience.

The artist offers deeper insight “Our world is suffocated with things. Lagos, the city where I live and work, typifies crowdedness. So I use an assortment of objects to tackle issues of consumerism, spirituality and the environment.”

Both artists are graduates of the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos and recently completed their Masters in Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, Isichei graduating from the Chelsea College of Art and Design while Osahenye graduated from Goldsmith’s College. They are widely exhibited in Nigeria, as well as in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.

Oliver Enwonwu is founder and Editor-in-Chief of Omenka magazine, Director, Omenka Gallery and Chief Executive, Revilo. He holds a first degree in Biochemistry, advanced diploma in Exploration Geophysics (distinction), Post Graduate Diplomas in Applied Geophysics and Visual Art (distinction) and a Masters in Art History, all from the University of Lagos. He is the founder, Executive Director, and trustee of The Ben Enwonwu Foundation. He also sits on the board of several organizations including the National Gallery of Art, Nigeria and the Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria. Enwonwu is also president of both the Society of Nigerian Artists and the Alliance of Nigerian Art Galleries.

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