Saturday, February 9, 2013

                                 'BEFORE THE STRING SNAPPED'

         “Speak out or take some action abeg you no delay. No let matters worse pass as e dey…”

Replenish v, 48inches by 48inches

Using many outlets for his creative expression, Uchay Joel Chima is an artist who continually questions how to address he subjects that intrigues him. The degree to which he does so is noteworthy, especially because the diversity within his practice is not always obvious. At first glance, whether at an art auction in Lagos or in a group exhibition, one might presumptuously reduce his work to painting, perhaps a version of the romanticized painting that riddled the Nigerian art community in the mid-1900s. And if his work is not placed in that group, then it could be mistakenly understood solely in the context mixed media art, a contemporary technique that is highly variable in many respects, from physical appearance to conceptual rigor.

It is rare that one of Joel Chima’s work, much less his entire oeuvre, fits comfortably into any single category. To be sure, his approach to making art envelops a mixture of the trends referenced above and more. The concepts that Joel Chima’s techniques grapple are unbound by time and simultaneously, albeit ironically, often emerge in response to the fleeting present. This is exemplified in his series Na Who I Go Ask? Whose title comes from the popular song, “If You Ask Me”, song by Nigerian singer Omawunmi. Here, constraining paint to the contours of strings,

Replenish v, 48inches by 48inches

Joel Chima renders anonymous figures looking in every which direction.
Though the artist describes these forms as, “just a circle of people in discourse on societal issues,” they also seem independent, resolute, and caught unawares in a densely populated place like lagos.
Joel Chima explores human experience through many projects simultaneously, leaving some open-ended. One of his ongoing ventures is Residue Collection Of  Societal and Environmental Mishaps: HABITAT LOSS. He began this project in 2009 while collecting remains from burnt trees, houses, marketplaces, or villages where ethnic clashes had taken place. This project certainly comments upon contemporary interactions between communities, presenting video footage and charcoal fragments as evidence; however, it has as much to do with the degradation of the environment. Such references could not be more salient as threats from Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist sect, and the havoc of global warming have become common place. Joel Chima ‘s cognizance of contemporary happenings such as these is presented in his works as rearranged documentation, often from an objective stand point.

Before the String Snapped, the title of this exhibition, refers to works where the artist uses strings to craft forms in concert with the expressive application of paint. Herein, strings add texture to his compositions, whether outlining the silhouette of a figure as in the previously mentioned Na Who I Go Ask series, emphasizing elements such as hair, or uniformly disrupting the entire surface of a work. The string signifies the link from one human being to another in which visual art itself can be a conduit. In addition, there are the many other connections that can be imagined, whether to the environment, material objects, or a spiritual realm.

 Replenish iii, 42inches by 42inches

 These connections from a web of priorities, which shift in the artist’s works as in life.

Upon close observation of many of such works, enabled by solo exhibitions such as this one, it becomes apparent that this artist has been predisposed to using particular techniques, each of which has developed independently. Together, the breadth materials across his practice make hi arguably one of the most experimental artists working in Lagos today. Each incorporated material is dually purposed, informing the visual appearance and meaning of his works. This show comprises many miniatures, an offering of small chops for  thought in portioned fragments. With paintings, mixed-media works, and videos, a diverse selection of mediums is presented on a small scale, though uncompromising and veritably dense in concept.
                      - Tayo Ogunbiyi

                                                      Replenish v, 48inches by 42inches

                                                            Anticipation Series , 20inches by 20inches

 Na who I go ask?, 48inches by 48inches

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