Holding Cell, a work of mixed media by Nwokolo
No matter the way one views Alex Nwokolo, it is difficult to miss the fact that he is an artist with a large stature firmly placed in the centre of the Nigerian art space.
Nwokolo, who hit the stairs of a golden jubilee recently, is one of those who can be said to have truly personified the essence of art for as long as they have been in the arena.
Having been a full time studio artist for well over 22 years, Nwokolo has continued to be relevant in terms of renditions, successfully transiting from the traditional point of art creation into creating works that are marked by recent realities. His last exhibition titled Authenticity of Thoughts was held at popular art centre, Terra Kulture, last year.
Two years after that particular exhibition, Nwokolo presented works of unidentified faces which he put under the banner of Oju (Face) as a series. Although the Oju series surfaced in 2011 in an untitled show which took place at the Omenka Gallery in Ikoyi, Lagos, it was more than a couple of impressive art works. Of two textures; a soft, smoother surface newspaper waste collage as well as oil impasto Nwokolo said the acceptability of the series would transcend the art market at home. True to his words, ?Fragmented Hope,? a work in the lineup, enjoyed the position of the most appreciated bidding during the Philips de Pury and Company Art auction of African works in the United States later in 2010.
Attaining the age of 50 certainly gives a man the opportunity to reflect on a lot of things, and Nwokolo is not left out. He recalls that the most momentous elements of his career might not be all that easy.
?It?s a difficult task for me to say this and that are the most significant periods of my career. Remembering such periods should be the business of those who document art and artists. Artists are like scientists; we just work and leave historians to determine which periods was what.?
He however reveals a part of his life as an artist that hitting the age of 50 has definitely affected.
?My art keeps evolving, new ideas come; for now I take things as they come, no scripting.?
But in looking at Nwokolo?s works, it becomes clear that just as he shares similarity with UK-based Gbenga Orimoloye, who also held an exhibition titled Oju not long ago, so does he have something in common with Kunle Ogunfuyi, who very well documented aspects of the subsidy protest.
Titled Subsidy Unrest, Nwokolo?s work of flattened metal sheet and spray painting portrays a sea of protesters at the Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota, Lagos, clearly revisiting the anger against the fuel subsidy removal of January 2012, which nearly gave vent to Nigeria?s much-needed revolution.
Nwokolo?s interest in the arts dates back to many years in the past but the years between 1978 and 1980 saw him registering as a member of National Museum Art Club in Onikan, Lagos. He was to later undertake formal training which saw him bagging national diploma in general arts, higher national diploma in painting and master of fine arts to put him in a good stead.
Some of the exhibitions he has organised or been part of include Marks of Restlessness at the National Museum, Lagos; Velvety Dreams at Mydrim Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos; A History of Contemporary Art in Nigeria at MUSON Centre, Lagos 2001; Highlights at Mydrim Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos and Exhibition of Recent Works, Colours in Africa, Abuja 2002.