As an artist, Johnson Uwadinma believes a decent existence of morality and truth, and a sense of history shape the viability of any society. He pushes for this believe in all his works by creating art works that reflect principles based on morality and truth. He gets in touch with the essence of Mohandas k. Gandhi’s maxim: “Morality is the basis of things… Truth is the substance of all morality” and analyses the need to re-echo the relevance of truth which is gradually giving way to vices that threatens humanity. For him, visual image will sell and interpret the message faster.
In 2013, as part of a group exhibition at Mydrim Gallery in Lagos, he presented a series of work titled Aphorism to illustrate different statements of truth. Some of the works had political dimensions while others “reflect on social, economic, religious, proverbial and spiritual didacticism”. His second solo exhibition at the Boys Quarters Project Space in 2014/2015 was titled Erasure. It focused on memory and our problem with keeping knowledge of history.
In Aphorism, some popular sayings were used as titles to redefine their meaning through visual representations. Most of them were originally quoted by popular writers and some were quotes taken from the bible. Examples of these quotes are, Crossroads are Opportunity, Silence is Consent, Life is a Skill of Balance, To err is Human, the World is a Village, and Wisdom is better than Silver and Gold. He combines acrylic, oil, water color and signs to achieve significant features relating to the title of each work.
In Erasure, Uwadinma’s concern was about memory, the role it plays in human narration and other perspectives. He looked at the setback of not paying critical attention to knowledge, especially that of experience or history. He argues that “we have not learnt from history and we keep repeating the same avoidable mistakes”. This he relates to the prevailing mores from his social standing.
With a little obsession on the importance of memory, he uses newspapers to point at what we are documenting in present times, most of which are repetition and over used narratives. For instance, in the work Same Old News; a reader in a habitual seated posture has his face buried in a journal. Uwadinma explains, “In Nigeria, when you compare the stories that make the headlines in today’s tabloids with news report some years back, one will find they are recurring issues of politics, corruption, stagnant economy, and power. We are still battling same problems.” In Which War, Uwadinma relates the fallout of war as we have them, “whether it’s the war in Gaza or the Nigeria civil war, the outcome is usually the same.” After the destruction and cruelty we all become casualties but still negligent to the real lessons of war.
The malleable nature of acrylic permits him to create outlines and make impressions that leave his paintings with detail. Oil and water colour are basic materials in his works while he occasionally experiment with paper, wood, and metal.
Inspired by his environment and concern for humanity, Uwadinma’s works are done to near perfection. Or perhaps he is influenced to distinction and perfection by one of his mentors, El Anatsui who lives and work in Enugu. El Anatsui despite working in a different artistic medium has shaped Uwadinma’s drive for creative excellence.
Johnson Uwadinmwa was born in Kaduna, Nigeria in 1982. He has a Masters Degree in Painting from the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He is a recipient of a number of awards including the First Prize, NNPC/EPNL World Environment Day Art Competition and Chief Jubilee Owei Art Prize for Excellence. He has held two solo exhibitions and has featured in several group exhibitions. He is a member of Society of Nigerian Artists and Mangrove Artists. Art is a channel for him to continually question his existence and fulfillment of same.
Johnpaul Nnamdi is a Journalist and Writer.