On August 9, 2020, Rele gallery welcomed visitors to a new group exhibition titled Sublime: Between Solid and Vapour. Featuring artists Paul Onditi, Phoebe Boswell, Austin Uzor, Etinosa Yvonne, Michael Igwe and Talut Kareem, the exhibition examines works that exist in the space between abstract and representational art.
With themes revolving around identity, nostalgia, movement and migration, the exhibition explores the liminal journey between what is and is yet to be. It takes a further critical look at how identity is negotiated and redefined in our constant engagement with the unfamiliar, and the physical and visceral effects of the sublime in art and its related possibilities for self-transformation.
Paul Onditi’s works highlight issues of pollution, climate change. With a highly experimental approach and labour-intensive techniques. He uses materials such as film strips, prints, transferred images, pared-down layers of pigment, caustic acid and thin layers of oil paint to create a meticulously patched work to visualise an imaginative world.
Phoebe Boswell’s moving-image installation Ythlaf, literally translates to “water-relic’” in Old English from yth (wave, water, billow) and laf (remnant, relic), which loosely translates as the stretch of shore or beach revealed when a wave ebbs; the contested & mobile space that is neither quite land nor quite sea. This evokes the remedial power of water to buoy the spirit, to heal and to suture while considering how inconsequential the gravity of personal narrative is when contextualised within the immense expansiveness of nature. This work is complemented with ‘The Space Between Things’, a looped soundscape of spoken word poetry written by the artist during an intense period of recuperation. Her installation situates the body between two immense and constantly moving worlds, exploring its constant negotiation and movement between spaces.
Austin Uzor draws from his current state as an immigrant in the United States, to create vibrant paintings populated with loosely detailed figures. Focusing on themes of migration and displacement, he explores the journey of migrants from the African continent through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. His works consider the politics of conflict in the sub-Saharan regions and its ripple effect and contribution towards human displacement.
Etinosa Yvonne’s ‘It’s All In My Head’ series explores the coping mechanisms of survivors of terrorism and violent conflict in Northern Nigeria. Her emotive portraits in monochromatic tones reflect the ways the survivors of these conflicts, now displaced, rebuild and adjust to their new lives while also questioning how effective ‘moving on’ is in a society devoid of proper emotional, economic and psychosocial support.
Exploring the interaction between traditional painting medium and alternative material, Michael Igwe’s paintings employ the fluidity of form in engaging the grotesque, seamless and the unsteady nature of human experience and memory. His work explores themes of identity, time, psychology, and displacement in examining how human behaviour is influenced by notions of culture, love, power and religion. Done mostly in grey, tan colours, his expressive, disembodied faces represent a constant state of becoming and re-negotiation of identity and being.
Talut Kareem’s charcoal drawings occupy a space between reality, fantasy and exploring the transitory, fragile and ephemeral nature of the human mind in its reconciliation of the body as self and other. His expressive, blurry figures seem in a perpetual state of movement identifying “the subject as a wanderer in search of true identity”. In the wake of the global pandemic, as the world slowly reopens and with the advent of several social justice movements shedding light on often ignored issues in contemporary society both in Nigeria and other parts of the world.
This exhibition is on view until September 13, 2020. To see the exhibition, kindly visit here to schedule an appointment.