Rele Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria 19 May 2019 - 30 Jun 2019
by Victor Ehikhamenor
Rele Gallery presents “Daydream Esoterica”, a solo exhibition of new paintings and installation by visual artist Victor Ehikhamenor. The body of work in the series takes an introspective look at the artist as a conscious contemporary nomad living, leaving and thriving in a city that feeds its inhabitants’ dreams and frustrations and by its sheer nature demands that in order to survive – one must daydream. His first solo exhibition in Lagos in 8 years, the exhibition is a rare invitation into the inexhaustible mind of one of the most notable artist living and working out of Nigeria today.
Ehikhamenor hails from Udomi-Uwessan, a town within the historic Benin Kingdom in Edo state. Born into a lineage of artistic talents, he draws inspiration from dual aesthetics of his upbringing, using in his work, imagery and symbolism from both Africa traditional beliefs, Catholicism and other colonial constructs. It is with this context and background that Ehikhamenor as a “Citizen of the world” has spent the last 20 years of his life reinventing and innovating, garnering accolades and gaining prominence in art world capitals such as London, Miami, Venice and in unlikely destinations like Indonesia, China and Armenia. This latest exhibition is a culmination of years of his worldly artistic experiences and adventures with Lagos at the core of it all.
An artist of great versatility and a visual polyglot, Ehikhamenor employs the use of various materials in his artistic production. His medium is never limited to acrylic, pencil or charcoal on paper/canvas, bronze – it spans to arresting installation pieces made with Catholic prayer rosaries as primary material as well as his peculiar perforation on paper technique. This exhibition takes a different turn as it is the first time that the artist would predominantly use oil as a medium in all his works. The result compliments the richness and depth of the exhibition’s narrative.
The central work in the exhibition is the large scale painting “We the people and other dreamers.” The title of the painting borrows from the introductory statement of the United State Constitution’s fundamental purpose and guiding principles. In the same vein, the painting acts as an introduction to the city of Lagos. An abstract figuration piece, the work is at first deceptive of its announcement as it incorporates light colours such as pastel yellow and light blues suggesting Lagos as a composed city. On closer look, the painting unravels itself, revealing layers of individual personalities which Ehikhamenor uses as a backdrop for the rest of the body of work.
Also central to the exhibition is the site specific installation “Daydreamer’s Paradise (Dream for Free)” made from thousands of plastic sunglasses, reminiscent of what children wear on special occasions such as Christmas day and birthdays. Here, Ehikhamenor dips his hand in a nostalgic bag of his childhood to retrieve past and present memory and invite his viewers to take on a dreamlike journey with him.
As human beings we are constantly encountering ourselves and devising conversations in the mind, Ehikhamenor has extracted certain false realities we create in our minds and brings them to light through distinctive motifs, symbols and elements in bold colors, eyes wide open, windows/doors across each piece thereby offering a confrontation of self-reflection in a frenzied city.