529 West 20th Street, 5FL
New York, NY 10011 212-352 8058
Owu, 2015, plasto-yarn, twine, wool and found object, 32x22x91 inches, 81x56x231cm
September 24th – November 7th, 2015
Skoto Gallery is pleased to present Owu (Threading), an exhibition of recent mixed media sculpture by the Nigerian-born artist Ifeoma Anyaeji. This will be her second solo show at the gallery. The artist will be present at the reception on Thursday, September 24th, 6-8pm.
Ifeoma Anyaeji’s recent work continues her exploration of discarded materials, its quality and physical nature, placing emphasis on process to activate a meaningful engagement and creative openness that strives to reinvigorate newly acquired techniques and ideas. Her work centers on the idea of up-cycling or concept of material re-use such as the ubiquitous non-biodegradable plastic bags and bottles into something of greater value and unorthodox, eliciting unique elements of ripeness and continuous growth. Using traditional hair plaiting techniques from her homeland, she threads and braids discarded plastic bags into plasto-yarns combined with a strong compositional ability into complex yet lyrical visual narratives filtered through cultural memories and contemporary realities that reflect subtle understanding of context and an awareness of the relationship between function and experimentation.
Ifeoma Anyaeji’s work is dense with visual complexity that reflects an awareness of a vast array of both formal and inherited traditions while exploring their aesthetic, sensual, and visual content to assert a different declaration, and a new way of making art. By imbuing mundane materials, marks and processes with surprising significance and intricate design, her work is transformed into an extraordinary visual poetry with rich textures of vibrations and pulsations that allow the viewer a freedom of imagination, interpretation and emotional response. The exhibition includes a strong selection of new works that are persistently innovative and demonstrate an awareness of the expressive possibilities of abstraction while encouraging us to probe into common elements of the human experience. “Queen Eliza” mimics the wannabe look of a young ‘fashionista’, merging a conspicuous, traditional and almost uncoordinated webbed hair-do with fancy psychedelic heels cropped from colonial fashion, challenging the line between newness and the new. ‘Made in ‘Shina’ speaks the language of an accrued compulsive material acquisition and an architectural build-up of these acquisitions – of course almost all made in ‘Shina’.
Ifeoma Anyaeji was born 1981 in Benin City, Nigeria. She obtained an undergraduate degree in Painting with honors from the University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria in 2005 and as a Ford Foundation International Fellow, she obtained her MFA, Sculpture in 2012 at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, Washington University, St Louis, Missouri, USA. She has participated in several solos and group exhibitions at home and abroad, including ‘Reclamation’, University of Missouri, Columbia in 2012 and Basket Case II, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, 2014. She was the Washington University in St Louis Nominee for the 2012 International Sculpture Center Outstanding Student Achievement Award. She is in several collections in Africa, Europe and the US. She is in the faculty at the University of Benin, Nigeria, and currently pursuing a PhD program at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.
Art is a limitless expressive tool of freewill. Therefore, its visual thoughts can serve to remind us that the limitation of one’s imagination is a limitation to one’s growth. And art devoid of optimistic imagination is art with limitations. As an artist, I have always had an interest in producing artworks that communicate with and integrate elements of and from my environment. This manifests in my choice of medium and style of rendition. My work is about the transitions of culture, the concept of recycling and material reuse, as a review of our cultural attitude to the ideology of product newness, value and the expiration date.
Through my works, I reflect on cultural descriptions of value and value systems drawn from elements that reflect social abnormalities. I am intrigued by process and the use of non-conventional materials as visual medium, like sand, wood and plastic, using the language of lines to transgress meaning and form and to replicate my memory of nature, the social and political. I am interested in the art of Up-cycling is to create a “new value” for that assumed to have lost its “newness”.
My concept of material reuse through the transformation of an object’s physical state, as an alternative to recycling by mechanized chemical disintegration, is to echo the environmental implication of accumulation and the extensiveness of a politicized archaeology of modernity’s consumptive system. This I conceive by creating a complexity of sculptural forms that allow for multiple interpretations of the functionality of an object after it has been consumed. I envisage a multiplicity of uses while retaining the physical state of the discarded object. I choose to work with conventional and non-conventional materials to create flexibility in my creation of forms.
The most recent of my non-conventional media are, two of the main global environmental pollutants, discarded plastic bags and bottles. I chose these pollutants based on their popularity in my home country Nigeria. With these I visually express the narrative of a domestic object’s possible transition from discarded to the aesthetic or functional – the transition from redundancy to utility. This style of art I have called Plastoart, coined from the words plastic and art.
The forms are conceived using the traditional craft skills of loom weaving and Nigerian hair Thread braiding (Threading) to manipulate the initial physical structure of my chosen medium. Braiding and weaving the plastic bags and up-holstering the plastic bottles with the bags enables me to conceive a complexity of sculptural forms that allow for a multiple interpretation of the potential functionality of these discarded mediums. With the spiraled patterned, fabric-like and organic forms I am able to make three and two dimensional forms. Most of the forms I make reference household furniture, architectural structures and fabric, like tables, chairs, wall partitions, tapestry and chair upholstering fabric.
My style reflects the environmental and is art for social engagement - an art for recreating economic value for these wastes. Thematically, I express an interplay of metaphorical themes drawn from traditional folklore, fashion, music and poetry. Used plastic bags may be tagged an environmental pollutant but to me it is a rich viable resource that must be exploited beyond its pre-designed use, even by an artist.
Ifeoma Anyaeji, 2015