The recent works of Duke Asidere, one of Nigeria’s foremost contemporary artists, will open to the public on July 4 at The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The exhibition titled “Mental Space” showcases 38 paintings on paper and canvas revealing Asidere’s uninhibited intellectual reflecting on critical issues in society.
“Most times when people look at art they look at art from the perspective of craftsmanship, just skill,” says Asidere, 55.
“When you involve your emotions, when you involve the information that you have, when you constantly indulge in issues that interest you, that are relevant, you begin to push beyond just your skill.
“You begin to stretch your mind and then it becomes a mental event, something you are using your brain to do.”
Asidere, a First Class graduate of Fine Arts (Painting) from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, taught painting, drawing and art history at the Federal Auchi Polytechnic for five years before starting full time studio work in Lagos in 1995.
Some of his works to be exhibited include Victims of Information; The Commentary; Backseat Mentality; Newspaper Collage Series; One Man, One Generator; and The Power Series among others.
“On the Power series, I believe that the issue we have with power are not just issues that cannot be handled effectively because it’s not rocket science. I think it’s a deliberate attempt to keep us in darkness,” Asidere says.
Having been involved in art since 1981, the artist says he often faces the dilemma of sticking to the old ways of painting, or developing a new approach.
But in ‘Mental Space,’ he leaves little room doubt as he reflects on Nigeria’s constantly changing political context.
“The issue of thought is very elastic,” Asidere says.
“Art is not only for the present. It is a documentation of the present, projects the future, and outlives the artist. Each artist must work in these three spaces – the present, the future, and then leaves a legacy.”
In his writing, the famous Nigerian artist, Gani Odutokun (1946 – 1995) described Asidere’s paintings as similar to “that of many older masters.”
“This is the lens of simplicity – the lens of sincerity,” wrote Mr. Odutokun, a former Head of Department of Fine Arts at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
“Duke possesses the kind of sincerity that has brought enormous recognition to artists (such as abstract expressionists like Philip Guston & De Kooning). These are artists who feel the urge to say something and will not like to be inhibited no matter how unpalatable to the society, what they might have to say.
“They will not create even a square centimeter of a picture just to please. But paint they will, to express an inner urgency. Duke belongs to this fold.”
Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago, the exhibition’s curator, says ‘Mental Space’ is Asidere’s external response to an internal, multi-layered landscape of deep thought, questions, and critique.
“Through his drawings he challenges us to reflect on a constantly changing political context, in which he highlights the crazy and controversial excesses in our lives with bold, often humorous poignancy.”
The exhibition is sponsored by the Wheatbaker and Louis Guntrum Wines, and runs until September 15, 2016.