Alexis hosts two artists in Covid-19-themed exhibition

Two artists, Dodd Brown and Orlu Prince Ozangeobuoma, though different in styles, yet with the same theme, are jointly showcasing at the Alexis Gallery, Lagos, this weekend. The works are all on Corona Virus, the sad events it has created in the society; how the pandemic has devastated humanity. The works bristle with anger, force and urgency. The artists spoke to Edozie Udeze as the exhibition runs till the 17th of this month



DODD Brown and Orlu Prince Ozange are from Rivers State of Nigeria.  They are two contemporary Nigerian artists who believe in the topicality of the issues they paint.  They paint to ensure that they bring to the fore their inner thoughts, pointing to those sensitive, burning issues that trouble the society.  As they open their joint exhibition at Alexis, Lagos, one thing is common to their features – phases of reflection.  This is a theme that dissects and embodies the inanities of Covid-19 and the general malaise of the pandemic.  Even Ozange describes it as hunger 19.

And so with the painful lockdown of the whole world, Nigeria inclusive, the two artists became more imbued with the general situations in individual homes, the level of hunger, the hypocritical approach of government, government agencies and so on, in handling the fallouts.  The works are not just revealing, they also unearth parts of the endless, conflicting conspiracy theories of Covid-19, the fears it embodies, the destruction of social and economic cohesive tendons of the whole world.

Patty Chidiac Mastrogiannis, the owner of Alexis who was excited about their works described them as two artists who though different in styles, almost have a converging or meeting-point.  She said: “As different as their styles and medium are, their theme tends to reflect on human life experiences, self-awareness, and evaluation.  Their body of work is fascinating in its glorious abstraction forms.  And we are glad to announce that the gallery will be partnering with Child Life-line, a non for profit organisation.  This group helps children living rough and on their own on the streets of Lagos to get back on their feet once more”.

Brown, a native of Andoni in Rivers State says he obtained his first degree from the University of Port Harcourt where he concentrated on Fine Arts and designs.  An active member of the Society of Nigerian Artists, (SNA) he is known to have participated in numerous group and joint exhibitions in parts of Nigeria.  Brown loves pallet on oil, a medium that makes him create unique style and aesthetics.

In 2018, he exhibited in an exhibition at Thought Pyramid, Lagos.  “Ozange was there too” he quickly added.  “I use mixed media, fabrics, to be more precise.  This gives me the sort of taste I desire.  I explore a lot, different medias.  My mixed works are known far and near”, he confesses in his gentle mien.

On the theme – phases of reflection, he enthused thus: “Yes, we are looking at the happenings in our society.  At the beginning of the year, corona virus hit the world heavily that there’s no safety anywhere in the world.  The theme looks at how people have been indoors, unable to mix, socialize, go about to make ends meet.  Then upon that, fear rules the world.  These are works that depict mostly what people have missed and are still missing due to the pandemic.”

He went on: “the works are reflecting deeply on these series of agonies, frustrations by millions of people world-over.  Not just Nigeria, but the universe in its totality.  This is why I am showing eleven works, all heavily laced with those things we are doing now that we were not familiar with long before now”.

The works, he insisted, were done during corona virus lockdown with none done earlier on.  “That’s why we are doing this exhibition.  The issues are topical, timely and relevant at the moment”.  One of the works is titled tranquility.  It also has a second title which is in acadia we wait.  This is truly emphatic, harping on the need to save the world, to safeguard its populations. “In other words, we are waiting to see the outcome of this pandemic”, he noted with deep somber reflection written on his face.

He let us into the fears of what will happen after this crisis is done with.  The work reflects phases of fear, trepidation, confusion, anxiety and so on as the world battles a common enemy.  The works are spurred by the pandemic, which means Brown never gave himself any breathing space working round the clock to produce Covid-19 induced realisms and the like.

He goes into fabrics to be more expressive, classy and realistic.  He uses fabric, mostly acrylic, sometimes he replicates both for his special signature, blend and effects.  “Yes, this is an experiment, it is my own mode of experiment peculiar to me.  In one of my works, done in 2018, titled Corridor of Power, I equally went into the mixture of fabric and acrylic for a proper blend.  When I was doing that I created some motifs, keys on power symbol.  Over time however, I have discovered that I can develop those motifs, use them for the body of my works.  The motifs reflect in some of the works I have here now for this exposition”.

As for Ozange whose works still have some reflexes of his master in the art, Duke Asidere, he is known for his bold and somewhat intimating strokes.  His works come out in unique rendition, quickly arresting your attention with irresistible artistic aura.  He has this bold application of deep colours, with distinct attention to gestures and facial expressions.  He is a man who brings his huge frame to bear on his art works so that as you look at his size, you also gaze at those gigantic audacious canvases.

He responded thus, “For me, generally, the whole setting about the pandemic informed all my works.  It was a moment I cannot forget or wish to repeat itself, hence these works to describe, depict and lampoon the sad development.  As for my relationship with Asidere where I did my internship, most times my works also reflect him without I often necessarily realizing it.  I was influenced by Duke Asidere even from the way he talks, discusses and dissects his works.  Invariably that boldness has seeped into my works in a way we can see in my works which are equally bold and arresting.  That strong, courageous attitude towards life, which he brings into his works also has a lot to do with what I do in my works”, he reiterated with emphasis.

“These are what I brought into my works of covid-19 which I have seriously turned to hunger 19.  Hunger 19 because it brought families, institutions, businesses, to their knees.  Hunger hit hard.  Initially, we thought it will last for a few weeks.  But it went on and on.  I was stranded in Enugu and for a few months incommunicado.  The period was a mess, a total confusing mess.  I went for Christmas in Enugu, was caught up there.  Oh, it was so traumatic, so psychologically demonlising.  We were in a box, locked up by the pandemic.”

So naturally, he laid his hands on the next available painting tools, resorting to create new arts based on those tools.  So amazing are these works, exploring humanity at different levels of deprivation, regrets, fears and lack.  For over six months, Ozange was in a hotel in Enugu and almost helplessly away from his native home, Port Harcourt.  All of these fired him on instantly, bringing out the best artistic imagination stored up in his inner being.  One of the works is titled placed in the box of lies, April 2020.  This captures almost in summary what corona virus did to people that melted them down almost irretrievably.

The exhibition which opened on 10th October 2020 will end on the 17th of this month.  As usual Alexis is sticking to the Covid-19 stipulated rules, even though it will happen both virtually and physically.  Physically, for a select viewers and patrons.  And sponsoring the event are the following:

Pepsi, Tiger, Indomie, Mikano, The Guardian, Wazobia FM Radio, Lost in Lagos, Cool FM, UPS, Cool World, Cobranet, Delta Airlines, Aina Blackson, The Homestores, and Art Café.

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