“Chronicles Of The Enchanted World”
Paintings and Sculptural Installations by Victor Ehikhamenor, 21 May – 19 July 2014
Gallery of African Art, London
History, events and humans often put strands of narratives before us, calling us to retell stories in curious ways. We react with caution but oftentimes exaggerate our claims to the past, delving into reconstruction of memories documented mentally, some vivid and many flimsy. As these narratives are espoused by one storyteller and then another, from one generation to the other, they become elastic and magical, sometimes contentiously constructed. Elasticity guarantees that an experience can be at once phantasmal as it is of a present moment, as well as a form that is shapely in its shapelessness.
In a once vibrant village filled with artsy shrines and altars of worship, a mother and many grandmothers tell tales and construct folktales that seesaw between the living and the dead, the spirit world and the metaphysical realm. The characters in these folktales were elaborate, imaginations were stretched as far as the mind can accommodate, sometimes frighteningly so. As one grow older and dissect these old tales, the reality of things kick in, the characters and events heard of as a child are not as far away anymore. Those early distant characters become “us”, we the living. The art of chronicling the enchanted world is a way for the storyteller to drag the past to come witness the present and shape the future for those interested.
Supposing, then, we are presented with art and letters that begin with this premise, pointing to alternative narratives? To fuse and interfuse stories with the written word, heard and imagined, draw/paint belligerent and benevolent art seen and dreamt of everyday? One has no choice but to obey and that obedience to tell it all is what inform the basis of my various art forms over the years.
“Chronicles Of The Enchanted World”is a telling of an accumulated constructed, other-worldliness pictorial stories of many veracities. These works in their different shapes and styles approach the use of traditional material from the atypical corner of a storyteller. The paintings and sculptures propose that the artist’s canvass can stretch his/her narratives farther than the restraining corners of stretcher bars. What would a painting on a sculpturally constricted canvass look like? What ancient tales would a hand-made paper perforated with nails tell? Will a free flowing extra-large canvas, filled with borrowed signs and symbols from the walls of village shrines and sacred altars, tell the story of a cherished yet divided childhood? Encountering the works will answer some of these questions but it will also send viewers into further phantasmic journey filled with their own interrogations.
In these works there is almost no dichotomy between the real and the spiritual, home-grown religion and borrowed transcendent beliefs, they are one and the same. When they are confronted, the canvases and sculptures present assorted human expressions and forms of existence. At first, they can be abstract, but when enough time is spent the figures assume the viewers into their own lives and their hidden personal narratives like my childhood griot grabbing me to a fabricated world.
The narrative structure of these works function as overblown paranormal (re)construction of the outer and inner self, the conflict of past and present, identity and belonging, rites and religion, events and history in all its disrupted form. They make one the chronicler of memories.
Check out this video for further insight into the exhibition.
Please visit the gallery’s website for more information and contact details.
See also our earlier post on extracts of Ehikhamenor’s work featured in Saraba Magazine.