Review: Rom Isichei’s Reverence of Thoughts
The exhibition space was calm. Muted bursts of colour drifted alongside mostly white space. With an average size of at least 50 inches, each piece commanded as much attention as the others. There was no rush to see a cornerstone piece.
Reverence of Thoughts is Rom Isichei’s 11th solo exhibition. Although he was born in Asaba and now lives and works in Lagos, his work has been shown in Europe and the United States. His audience is a combination of artists, seasoned and new collectors, and inquiring media representatives.
Isichei highlighted how his practice has grown in tandem with the spaces he occupies. He can create larger works because he now has a studio where whole walls can hold works in progress, expanding his playground.
This 11th exhibition is primarily an experiment, with the artist allowing the audience to construct their own narrative. The pieces featured are tied together by the deep expression in the eyes of each subject and by visual themes. The staccato texture adds rhythm to the hue of each piece. The artist shared that his technique featured covering layers of sawmill dust with multiple layers of acrylic paint to achieve remarkable pixelated effects and muted colours. In charcoal grey, mild blues, and pale reds, Isichei captures each subject in an exact moment of thought, as in the moment of despondent daydreaming in Tomorrow Never Comes or the quiet anticipation in Hope Enkindled Her Eyes(i).
The series is particularly interesting for the timeless nature of the subjects, an array of children and adults. These are all represented with little to no visual context of where, if anywhere, they exist. They feel familiar, but their depiction offers the viewer mental space to connect to them or to remain detached.
Highlight include Hope Enkindled Her Eyes (i), mixed media on canvas, 162.5 x 190cm, These Grey Thoughts Could Be in My Mind (i), 162.5 x 190cm.
Reverence of Thoughts reflects society, balancing narratives of oppression against the value of connection. Isichei elicits varying emotions with the pieces in this series, leaving the viewer with a sense that, in spite of the struggle, there will be a better tomorrow.
March 18, 2019