Writing Art History Since 2002

First Title

Transcendence as a concept has been explored by artists throughout history.

Courtesy of Omenka Gallery.

It involves the idea of going beyond the limitations of the physical world and achieving a state of enlightenment or spiritual awareness. Since time immemorial, humans have always sought to transcend their ordinary lives and connect with the divine; from ancient shamanistic rituals to modern mindfulness practices. One of the earliest examples of transcendental art can be found in the religious paintings of the Renaissance period. Artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael sought to capture the divine in their depictions of biblical scenes, evoking a sense of awe and wonder in the viewer.

So also, Jimmy Nwanne’s works in this joint exhibition Transcendence explore life from two dimensions; the incorporeal and the real. The real helps the viewer connect with what is familiar, while the incorporeal is captured through elements of abstraction. This process serves as a pathway to access our true human existence embodied by these two worlds. In making sense of human existence and the human as a being, the artist uses figures and objects or objective reality as characters to reimagine another reality that explores different aspects of our humanity. Interestingly in Layers, we see the subject in a state of undress. Two hands unfurl a green blouse, over the model’s head over the female form while two additional ones are at rest, seemingly belonging to a body suit with a partially opened zipper running down her chest. This raises questions regarding issues of identity, our inner being and our perception of our conscious selves. 

Evolving from his earlier classical rendition of urban landscapes, architecture, pictorial compositions and lifestyle, Olufemi Oyewole’s works focus on the exploration of human expressions and how fundamental changes in culture can affect our perception of identity. Just as Nwanne views himself as a conscious vessel through which creativity finds expression, Oyewole sees himself as a social communicator charged with the responsibility of conveying ideas centred on the core of existence. His works oscillate between figuration and the abstract as evidenced in his ‘Weekend Directors’ and ‘Soft Life’ series. Here, we observe the paintings are executed on flat planes with several visibly ignored areas rendered in charcoal. The subjects appear to be from an older generation, a common factor present in most of his other selected pieces for the exhibition. Collectively, they project an impression of archival portrait photography that resonates strongly with cultural knowledge, feminism, colonisation and migration.

A cursory look at both bodies of work show a preoccupation with portraiture. However, obvious differences rests in their technique and thematic framework, with the former adopting painterly, impasto brushstrokes across several planes that evoke a sense of the infinite and the spiritual, while the latter’s subjects appear more to owe a small debt to computer generated graphics and serves to reveal the hidden dimensions that lie beyond expected notions of conventional portraiture such as selfhood and the notion of family. He too, is successful in situating his work within the metaphysical.

In all, the artworks presented in this exhibition move beyond conventional modes by which space is known and understood and suggest new ways of living in the world. It also compels the viewers to set aside the conditioned ways of thinking and meditate in seeking answers to questions regarding the infinite as well as reflect on their own experiences of transcendence.

The exhibition will be on view from the 26th of May until the 26th of June, 2023. For more information, please visit Omenka Gallery.

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