Rom Isichei : Interpreting the Zeitgeist – Toni Kan
In this short essay, Toni kan shares his insights pertaining to Rom Isichei’s art practice in the light of a recent exhibition curated by Ugoma Adegoke of Bloom Art for Constant Capital
Chatting recently, via
WhatsApp, with an artist friend, he shared his new work with me.
When I commented that it
was different. He sent a terse reply – Innovate or die!
Every great artist
produces works that are constantly in flux, always dynamic, constantly
This is important because as Jhumpar Lahiri wrote, artists are interpreters of maladies, they are auguries of new epochs as well as chroniclers of the zeitgeist. They define not just the present but anticipate the future.
This is important in
contemplating Rom Isichei’s oeuvre which has been defined by change and
evolution as he constantly engages with all that is new and fresh and novel.
At the 2016 edition of Art
X, Isichei represented by Bloom Art, exhibited a body of works depicting
subjects interacting with their mobile phones. It was a casual nod to a device
that has become, in many ways, an extension of our arms. It was a timely
commentary that defined the times and which riffed on Banksy’s 2014 mural –
Mobile Lovers – in a manner that was clearly Rom Isichei’s.
Rom Isichei’s new body of work executed all on
paper and presented by Ugoma Adegoke of Bloom Art continues on that trajectory
of the innovative. Why paper? Why not paper?
Every medium, every hue provides the artist with a new visual language, one of communicating with his audience because to borrow from Mikhail Bakhtin, the best art is dialogic.
Rom Isichei’s visual language, his iconology if
you will, that which he calls his visual compositions could be essayed as
having been taken straight out of babel but without the incoherent babble. His
visual language is heteroglossia, a collage which has seen him communicate in
the language of the canvas, of found objects, of metal, of pencil and coal on
paper and many other iterations.
But all in this he has remained fluent and
eloquent in the language of beauty which is all that matters, that which
In the body of work on display, Rom Isichei
presents works which, as he explains in his artist’s statement, are mined from
a place of nostalgia – “visual snapshots of everyday life that enact our shared
humanity, celebrate the vibrancy of unrestrained emotions….”
The subjects are filched from the everyday, but
there is beauty and something ennobling in their monochromatic and quotidian
ordinariness as Rom Isichei outlines them using pencil strokes, graphite powder
and chalk pastels.
Because the works are executed on paper, the
images and subjects acquire a flatness that insists on not being one
dimensional. The works then become, in that sense, a masterclass in symmetry, form,
rhythm and fluidity.
That is at the core of Rom Isichei’s visual interpretation
of our times.