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Tiwani Contemporary announce its forthcoming autumn exhibition in its Lagos gallery, ‘lalala ha!‘. This solo presentation of paintings, drawings and performance by Wura-Natasha Ogunji ebbs, flows and accumulates over time.

Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Two figures standing in an embrace, 2023. Thread, ink, acrylic on tracing paper, 61 x 61 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Tiwani Contemporary.

Conceptualised as a series of changing vignettes with a non-linear narrative, ‘lalala ha!‘ considers the characteristics of the space as an important presence within the exhibition, with the height of the ceilings, the reverberation of sound, the cool industrial floors, and discreet windows all in dialogue with the works on display. Viewers are invited to look up, lie down, move about, return and remember, with new work hung within the gallery each week to reconfigure the whole.

Conceptually, ‘lalala ha!’ is a form of memoir, embodying ways of being and moving in the city of Lagos, where the artist has primarily lived and worked for the past decade. Ogunji says:

“I am deeply interested in how our creative work as artists embodies the forms and poetics of Lagos: the stops and starts of moving through traffic; the choreography of the market; the deep red earth; water all around us; the return of electricity signalled by a fan turning on…A painting moves up the wall with a pulley…We pass images and the images pass us.”

For Ogunji, the space of the imagination and art-making is expansive and liberatory; for ‘lalala ha!‘, the gallery space becomes a place to speak more fully about, and bring focus to, unique Lagosian gestures, ways of being, thinking and moving in the world. Drawing inspiration from Édouard Glissant, a French writer, poet, philosopher, and literary critic from Martinique widely recognised as one of the most influential figures in Caribbean thought and Francophone literature, the art gallery becomes a site for transforming how we approach and remake this current world: By seeing, by feeling, by knowing that there are other ways of being and making that we had not yet imagined.

Parallel to these conceptual considerations, ‘lalala ha!‘ is also an exploration of Ogunji’s own transnational movements, and the ways in which these affect the form of the work she creates. How do paintings cross borders? What is the process of transporting large-scale work from Paris to Lagos? Could folding the linen to fit in a suitcase open up formal possibilities in the painting? Ogunji is interested in ways in which new language rises from transnational quandaries, broadly, and specifically as it informs her work.

Formally, ‘lalala ha!’ reflects the diversity of Ogunji’s practice from performance to painting, drawing, and embroidered stitches. The work Two figures standing in an embrace demonstrates the more painterly turn that her drawings have taken in the last few years: While the stitch is still present, Ogunji has explored the painted surface more deeply. Yellow is a work made from ink and acrylic on pleated linen, with the pleated folds allowing Ogunji to make two separate, but related paintings. A garden of date palms is a drawing inspired by a sketch in one of Ogunji’s father’s dream journals. After her father passed away, the artist found his dream journals, spanning fifteen years, taking this sketch and reinterpreting it, before overlaying it with stitches and ink. For Ogunji this piece acts as a kind of oasis in relation to the other works in the show, as well as to the gallery itself with its high, expansive walls.

A memoir, the ebb and flow of a life, a rupture, a seam, a series of notes and mistakes, the filling and emptying of a space; the multiple versions of ‘lalala ha!’ are intended to inspire viewers to remembrance, disagreement, and excitement over what was there and where and when.

The exhibition will be on view from the 16th of September until the 5th of November, 2023. For more information, please visit Tiwani Contemporary.

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