Rele celebrates Young Contemporaries @ 5 with Alumni exhibition – Chidinma Okere

A successful child is every parent’s dream and Rele was in celebratory mood as it opened the Young Contemporaries Alumni Exhibition on January 19, 2020.

The envelope-pushing art gallery describes the Young Contemporary initiative as a programme instituted to “address a clear and present concern in the Nigerian art scene, the possibility of a democratic space where young, fresh artists can emerge after being trained and mentored to become professionals.”

In the five years since the initiative was launched, over 30 artists have emerged and are finding success as professional artists.

The exhibition which held at the National Museum Onikan ran from January 19 – February 2, 2020 and featured works by 14 artists who have passed through Rele’s annual boot-camp for the young and talented.

Featured artists included – Marcellina Akpojotor, Tonia Nneji, Sejiro Avoseh, Osaze Amadasun, Dipo Doherty, Rewa, Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, Abisola Gbadamosi, Yasser Claud-Enin, Stephen Tayo, Eloghosa Osunde, Osaru Obaseki, Logor Oluwamuyiwa and Fidelis Joseph.

Their works were a study in the eclectic nature of modern Nigerian art with some casting a backward glance to the past as in Osaru Obaseki’s grappling with the tragic hero, Oba Ovonramen Nogbaisi with others taking a decidedly contemporary stance.

Sejiro Avoseh’s colourful works are almost surreal and macabre in their presentation even as they remind you of the enigmatic images and paintings of Jean Michel Basquiat. There is also that same otherworldly and mysterious quality to the works of Fidelis Joseph. One also gets that hint of the surreal and mysterious in Tonia Nneji’s works which though simple always demand a second look.

Marcellina Akpojotor’s paintings can seem quotidian and almost playful in their representation of scenes from everyday life and the joys of friendship and relationships but its genius lies in the compostion which requires full engagement. The same can also be said of Rewa’s painting depicting female subjects in interesting compositions.

Yasser Claud-Enin’s portraits of women appear simple and almost unremarkable until you draw closer and notice the detailing as well as the background which is made up of adire tie-dye fabrics.

The photographic images presented by Stephen Tayo depict colourful scenes from contemporary Nigeria but they are remarkable for capturing interesting characters as subjects. Logor Oluwamuyiwa’s photographic images do not look like photography and communicate a radical departure from his usual black and white photography showing city scapes or individuals. These new works on display at the exhibition are small and colourful and require that you draw close to fully appreciate them.

The works on display whether realistic and literal or mysterious and enigmatic are eloquent testimonials of the success of Rele’s Young Contemporaries programme and looking into the future once can only anticipate further growth.

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