Artistic journey into memory

Artistic journey into memory

A solo exhibition
by artist and creative director at NEXT newspaper Victor Ehikhamenor,
“Entrances and Exits’, opened on Saturday, May 7 at the Centre for
Contemporary Art (CCA) in Yaba, Lagos.

Ehikhamenor set
up the exhibition with assistance from Bisi Silva, the director of CCA,
and artist Jude Anogwih. The show is the second of a four-part series
the centre is hosting, with photographer Mudi Yahaya having held the
first. Yahaya’s recently concluded exhibition at the centre was titled
‘The Ruptured Landscape’.

“This is
important for us because what we are interested in over the next two
years is working with Nigerian artists based here and artists that
reside primarily in the diaspora,” said Silva.

“We want to push
artists to go beyond their comfort zones to be able to use CCA as a
kind of laboratory where they can experiment, where they can try new
things and bring new dimensions to their work,” she added

Site-specific drawing

The works on
display include paintings and photographs by Ehikhamenor, who is also a
photographer. And underlying the works is the symbolism of the door in
all its shades of meanings, and its function as a point of entry and

The interesting
works are also the artist’s way of preserving the memories of his
childhood as seen from a site specific drawing with chalk on one of the
walls of the exhibition space at the CCA. The wall, which was initially
white, was repainted black and Ehikhamenor used white chalks to draw
patterns on it.

Some of the
paintings also have chalk drawings similar to those which appear on the
wall. The linear and circular lines in the drawings and paintings are
linked to every form of art the artist rediscovered while photographing
for the exhibition. “I decided to do a site-specific drawing, which is
what is going on around the art world right now. Unfortunately, we
don’t have funding from the government here so you can’t really play
around by just going to a place and say okay, this is what you want
people to see.

“So I decided to
do the site-specific, which again takes on a different meaning because
it is temporary and it is also permanent. It will be washed out after
the exhibition but people would have engaged with it.”

Feeding on memory

Another series
include photos of thatched walls and wooden doors with chalk
illustrations and drawings. The artist explained the series thus: “I
grew up in the village but I lived outside the country for about 16
years. Right after I got out of the university, I left the country.
When you are in exile you pretty much feed off your memories.

“When you are not
home, you tend to consume a lot of what you have experienced and I kept
doing some things with doors as far back as 10 years ago. Just like
thinking about the doors of my grandmother.

“My grandfather
had eight wives and each of them had their own houses with different
walls so I kept feeding off of those things and eventually in 2010, I
came back to the village and I realised that these things are going
away because nobody is taking care of them anymore.

“So I started
photographing them. After photographing, I looked at the images and
said well, they are just ordinary doors. The following day I got some
chalks, went back to them and started working on each of the doors,
which this series is all about.”

The artist added
that the series represents different doors, each with its own history.
“I showed them to Bisi [Silva] and we started talking and looking at
possibilities. I started thinking of what else I should do with it. I
started looking at where I went out from and where I decided to go back
to. That is how the whole door series started.”

For the artist,
essentially, it’s all about memories; going out and coming in. “In
doing that I was able to revisit my childhood. I was able to revisit
the visual codes that were there in the community and I decided to
replicate that.”

fascination with doors and windows is also evident in the paintings
that are embedded in wooden window frames. “You can give the door
series a subjective analysis yourself because [a] door means different
things: they can be physical, they can be imaginary and we have doors
in our heads. How do we weave in and out of memory?” he said.

In ‘A Quest for
Memory’, a mixed media piece on canvas, old photos of the artist’s
grandfather and his wives are welded into the painting. He explained
that, “As far as the family picture image is concerned, it is a way for
me to feed off of my memory and to keep their memories as well so that
people can see them and say okay, this is where this guy is coming

Aside from
parallel patterns and illustrations on the works and the interesting
window and metal frames, some of the paintings are richly hued. The
colour choices are deliberate and the artist explains that the colours
in the painting are evocative of the red clay, ochre, charcoal and
sometimes chalk white that could be found on walls in his village.

Cultural artist

Silva expressed
satisfaction at the body of work. “This is an artist that is going back
into culture, going back into history but then looking at how that
impacts on the present and I think that is interesting,” she said. “One
of my favourites is the one where he has embedded vintage photographs
of family members into his work and [is] using that as a starting point
to begin to engage his ancestry; and how he, as a contemporary urban
individual, is engaging something intimate and that idea of home,” she

Silva also
disclosed that the next installment of the exhibition series will
feature UK-based artist Jide Alakija while the fourth will focus on the
works of six female artists; three from Nigeria and three from the

‘Entrances and Exits’ is on display at the Centre for Contemporary Art, located at 9 McEwen Street, Yaba, Lagos until May 28.

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