Rethinking Materiality

Exploring the use of unconventional materials and techniques in two-dimensional image making in the works of select Nigerian artists

Rele Arts Foundation

Margarita, Of Old and New (2015) by Ngozi SchommersRele Arts Foundation

Rethinking Materiality

The exhibition explores how contemporary artists selected from past exhibitions at Rele Gallery have engaged a distinct and somewhat unconventional approach to materiality in painting. The works presented in this exhibition show a significant departure from traditional painterly media to new and exciting modes of two-dimensional image-making

Eyes on the gold IV, (power series II) (2018) by Marcellina AkpojotorRele Arts Foundation

Marcellina Akpojotor

Working primarily with the Ankara fabric commonly known as the ‘African print fabric’ despite its Dutch origins, Marcellina Akpojotor employs collaging and traditional painting techniques to produce richly textured and layered work with compelling visual imagery exploring femininity, personal and cultural history and issues surrounding women empowerment in contemporary society.

Akpojotor’s use of this fabric comes on the heels of a long and rich tradition of artistic engagement with this medium. From an enduring relationship at the intersection of fashion and photography as seen in the works of prominent African photographers like Seydou Keita, Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou and hassan Hajaj who explored this material beyond its conventional uses in their photographs, to its use in a more diverse range of artistic media as seen in Yinka Shonibare’s sculptures, installations, photographs and films, and Peju Alatise’s sculptures, installations and paintings to Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s textured collages, the Ankara fabric has been a vehicle of expressing hybridity and complexity, heritage and a distinct culturality.

Daughter of Esan(first generation) (2018) by Marcellina AkpojotorRele Arts Foundation

Akpojotor’s process involves folding and glueing of strips of fabric in a painterly delineation of form in what can be described as an ongoing interrogation of discarded fabric. Her exploration of this material started out as an interest in its functionality as human clothing with her later beginning to think about the politics of the material as a cultural signifier and as a conduit for memory and shared energy.

She notes, ‘I source my fabrics from the remnants produced at the tailor’s shop and before I get them, they would have passed through a lot of hands from the manufacturer to the final consumer. There is an energy that is passed from one person to another’.

Marcellina (power series) (2018) by Marcellina AkpojotorRele Arts Foundation

Approaching the Ankara fabric as a way to build up complex form through layering and juxtaposition in creating a hybrid of collage and painting, Akpojotor’s work adds to and dialogues with a rich history of exploring and repurposing material in contemporary art from Nigeria and Africa.

Hive Mentality Hive Consequences (2018) by Ayobola Kekere-EkunRele Arts Foundation

Ayobola Kekere-Ekun

Ayobola Kekere-Ekun creates her work predominantly with a technique dubbed ‘quilling’, in which paper material is stripped and manipulated to create textured two-dimensional forms. Quilling has roots stemming as far back as the 15th century when it served mostly decorative purposes. The medium has since progressed, finding mainstream relevance and success in the works of contemporary artists such as Ihwa Kim from Korea.

Her engagement with this technique of image-making stems from a fascination with lines, how it forms the basic component for the most complex forms. Its ability to connect and separate, enclose and exclude, direct and misdirect, all at the same time.

First World Problems Third World Edition I (2018) by Ayobola Kekere-EkunRele Arts Foundation

She notes, ‘I view my work as a three-dimensional manifestation of lines. A means of catching pockets of light and casting gentle shadows; an avenue to create small stories within a wider narrative.

A recurrent feature of her works is the meticulous attention given to detail. Her pieces are built, constructed and assembled laboriously by her hand, over long periods of time. Her works confront the viewer with their clearly defined lines and subtle materiality. They change slightly as the viewer approaches the work from an angle or another and, therefore, the shadows cast by the strips of paper become weaker or stronger.

Bolanle (Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives) (2019) by Ayobola Kekere-EkunRele Arts Foundation

With the fragility of her material contrasting against the implied strength and resilience present in her figures, Ayobola engages questions on representation, paradoxes and delicate complexities.

Eden (I) (2018) by Sejiro AvosehRele Arts Foundation

Sejiro Avoseh

Sejiro Avoseh’s formal language is collage, the groundbreaking creative paradigm orchestrated by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in the early decades of the twentieth century to breathe life into modern art.

Whereas Braque’s and Picasso’s collage techniques emphasized breaking up the picture plane and instantiating three-dimensionality by careful juxtaposition of assembled materials combined with color, Avoseh creates a textured surface using magazine cut-outs combined with colors.

Kindred Spirits (2018) by Sejiro AvosehRele Arts Foundation

Avoseh’s pictorial composition and materiality are reminiscent of work by leading African artists Wangechi Mutu and Godfried Donkor. Mutu, for example, incorporates disparate elements including cut-outs from fashion and motorsports magazine to create fantastical imageries of human bodies melding into animal forms and machines.

Similarly, Avoseh creates a phantasm of human forms which hug the middle of the image surface, and in some of the canvases, appear to float against flat mostly monochromatic backgrounds.

Larger Than Life (2018) by Sejiro AvosehRele Arts Foundation

Avoseh practice of constructing a visual bricolage serve as a reference to his experience with navigating relationship and the society, his life described as a mixture of different scraps still being pieced together.

He notes, ‘I am painting the lives that have entered mine, I am also painting the effects these lives have had on mine; how they have lifted me’.

Numbers (2015) by Ngozi SchommersRele Arts Foundation

Ngozi Schommers

Working from a pointillist approach with scraps of confetti and traditional painting techniques, Ngozi Schommmers creates intricately detailed, stylistic paintings that interrogate socio-political, religious and cultural homogenization, as well as issues of identity and ecological destruction.

Her use of materiality imbues her work with a mosaic-like quality creating richly-textured and complexly-layered surfaces and forms.

Life is a Gamble (2015) by Ngozi SchommersRele Arts Foundation

Her process of work-making starts from collecting and punching papers sourced from diverse places before the actual process of layering and building up of form begins.

This process of simultaneous destruction and creation lends a fragmented and performative quality to the artist’s practice.

Credits: Story

Marcellina Akpojotor

Ayobola Kekere-Ekun

Sejiro Avoseh

Ngozi Schommers

Rele Arts Foundation | Rele Gallery
Onikan, Lagos, Nigeria

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Exhibit created by
Rele Gallery | Rele Arts Foundation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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