A couple of weeks back, I saw an image on the Facebook page of Nigerian artist Isaac Emokpae that I could not resist. More than the urge to like and re-share the image, I wanted to understand it as I have been fascinated by stained glass for a long time. It was one of the things I liked when I attended my friend’s Anglican church as a kid and a Catholic cathedral I visited 3 years ago. The glasses were not just painted but had images of familiar icons in Christianity and symbol of the cross placed between the yellow, blue and red colours around the alter and on some of the windows.
Asking Emokpae about that particular piece titled “Our Father Is Konstant” (featured image), led to sharing more images with me. Our Father Is Konstant is a stained glass piece he created in 2013. It is about the relationship that we have with our creator from the point of view of our souls. It is part of his work series “Monad” and was displayed at his first solo exhibition of 35 paintings titled “DUALITY” at The Wheat Baker in 2014.
“I have been using and experimenting with stained glass for a while now and I have executed a few commissions in this medium.” The Monad series was inspired by the works of philosophers like Leibnitz, Descartes, and Santayana. It is a philosophical journey and an opportunity to expand and explore his artistic capabilities. The forms represent the semi tangible container that we call the soul and the colours are expressive of the various emotions that we all encounter in our everyday relationships. The word monad in metaphysics and the philosophy of Leibnitz, is an indivisible impenetrable entity such as human or an atom. Therefore, the Monad series presents the soul as an indestructible part of the being regardless of what it encounters, its relationship with the creator and also topics such as identity and individuality.
In an interview with Sunnewsonline.com, he shared two things peculiar to his artistic process and they are, ” a quick prayer and music”. His playlist have songs from Randy Crawford, Maxwell, Marvin Gaye, Terence Trent D’arby, Asa, Ali Farka Toure and Enya. Aside from the philosophers quoted above, this collection of music and spiritual practice might have influenced the direction of his artistic expressions and the quest to present the soul in the Monad series.
Stained glass as art have existed since ancient times and was part of the history of early Christian churches in the 4th and 5th centuries. Evidence of stained glass windows in churches and monasteries in Britain dates back to the 7th century. In the Middle Ages, stained glass reached a peak, it became the popular medium for pictorial illustrations and narratives of the Bible to a largely illiterate populace. Features peculiar to this style of art are geometric shapes and patterns used to form images and bigger shapes and constant use of the primary colours red, blue and yellow. It is not exclusive to Christianity. Stained glass art are also found in mosques and historical buildings.
Isaac Emokpae (b. 1976) is a known visual artist who works in diverse media such as painting and photography. He graduated from the University of Lagos with a degree in Creative Arts. His career as an artist has focused more on photography and boosts of a portfolio covering clients like Genevieve Magazine, Virgin, Tiffany Amber, FinBank, LEAP Africa, and Lowe Lintas. He is the son of late renowned Nigerian artist Erhabor Emokpae who passed away in 1984.
See images of other works from the Monad Series below.