Gerald Chukwuma, AND LIGHT APPEARED, 2023. Mixed Media, 153 x 191cm. Courtesy of the artist and Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery.
Elongated figures, animals, swirling symbols and geometric patterns combine to create a vivid series of textured maps that are chiselled, burnt and painted on to panels of wood. Nigerian artist Gerald Chukwuma’s latest body of work was born out of a process of personal transformation and deep research into art therapy. As such, Homeostasis, his latest solo exhibition at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery’s London Bridge space, marks an important turning point in his practice, not just stylistically but philosophically. Defined by a pared-back, largely monochromatic palette and flowing, interconnected motifs, these new works are the result of the artist’s attempts to find an inner sense of peace and to explore art’s ability to heal.
Following a period of personal struggle, Chukwuma was introduced to the idea of homeostasis – which, in biology, is defined as a self-regulating process by which a living organism can maintain internal stability while adjusting to changing external conditions – as a state of mind. He became interested in how this kind of equilibrium could be cultivated not just in life, but also through the act of making and encountering art. These latest works are his first forays into these explorations. Though they still bear the markings of the artist’s singular visual language and rich use of symbolism, they are more abstract and fluid in style. Each work appears like a fragment of a larger vision, an evolving, collective dream.
To Rule the Day… To Rule the Night takes us on a temporal journey from light to dark. Here, spectral figures dance beneath a swirling cosmos that spirals out from white and black into deep shades of red, reminiscent of blood – the life force. Earth Bring Forth!, meanwhile, is populated with ancient-looking creatures and intricate patterns that burst into vivid hues of green, creating a dense, jungle-like landscape. In And the Light Appeared the horizontal format of the former two works is broken into a jagged shard, where streams of brilliant blue, deep black lines and the burnt silhouettes of people are sucked into a central point, a kind of vortex. Though we might recognise imagery in each of the works, the focus is less on a specific narrative than a sensory experience – they are, in the artist’s words, intended as ‘starting points to conversations’, a prompt to consider how we perceive and move through the world.
As he explains: “The world is a difficult place to live in at the moment. We are all experiencing struggle at different levels, from war to environmental concerns, wellbeing and economic hardship. I want to create work that alleviates those stresses, that makes the world a more beautiful and peaceful place.”
The exhibition is on view from the 2nd until the 30th of September, 2023. For more information, please visit Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery.