In ‘Time and Chance,’ Isegbe reflects lockdown, insecurity

The artist on tour of exhibition ground


It is a season of visual art in Abuja. This time, it is Mr. Agene Isegbe, an art administrator with National Gallery of Arts (NGA) going solo at the Thought Pyramid Art Centre, with over 80 art pieces of sculpture, paintings and drawings. Since it opened, the show has attracted a great number of art lovers and enthusiasts.

Titled, Exhibition of Time and Chance, the works have not fallen short of expectation, as the artist succeeded in presenting a blend of experience and aesthetics. The artist said it had been a long wait until now when nature allowed the exhibition to hold. However, the period of wait enabled him to accumulate a good number of art pieces across various media.

Some of the titles include, Lockdown, Adoration, Royalty, Defense and Protection. The artist also features paintings of prominent Nigerians such as, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Justice Ishaq U. Bello and a renowned oil magnate and entrepreneur, Sir Emeka Offor.

Lockdown, as an art piece, brings back memories of human movement restriction and activities as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. With lines, boxes and colours, the artist expresses the helplessness, apprehension and anxiety.

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“That was the very two weeks of the lockdown. It was frightening; as if the world was coming to an end. The only way to keep myself busy was to paint. The lockdown inspired that painting.

Another painting, Defense and Protection, calls to mind, the disturbing issue of child labour in Nigeria. Although painted years back, the issue remains relevant. It features young children returning from the stream. Their facial expressions bear witness to their inner pains and suffering. Above them hangs a symbol of justice, the artist’s way of seeking protection of the children’s fundamental rights and privileges as enshrined in the law.

For the personalities, the artist said” I chose to paint them because I understand their feelings and love for artworks. The personalities appeal to me.”

He also uses them to experiment a new style described as ‘painting without brushing’.

“I used palate knife to bring out the three dimensional forms on a flat surface,” he said.
Although the artist featured more paintings than sculptures, he is a sculptor by training. “It is my household skill. I work faster in sculptor than painting. But it is labourious and takes a lot of materials.”

Isegbe further blamed the underfunding of the art sector on poor understanding of the viability of the sector. “But it is the industry that lives with us daily. We humans are products of arts and culture.”

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To be appreciated, the artist suggested that artwroks should be accepted as collateral just as gold by financial houses. “If gold which is a natural resource can be accepted as collateral, artworks should be accepted too. Once this is done, the value will shoot up because people will begin to invest in arts,” he said.

The Artistic Director, Thought Pyramid, Jeff Ajueshi, described the exhibition as a testament to the saying that action speaks louder than worlds. According to him, artistic expressions spoke louder than words in Isegbe’s exhibition.

“He has used this body of works as mnemonics to intricately tell of times past while also evoking emotions that not only portray feelings from these experiences but also spark up conversations and lend solutions.

“For a man who has journeyed through the public and private spheres of artistic industry, be brings to this exhibition, perspectives from his experiences with practicing, curetting and documentation,” he said.

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