Friday, December 11, 2015

How to Obtain Healing Through Art

If art is spiritual as well as mental, which I think it is, then it follows that art therapy is real. But the question is how can art heal; what kind of art can deliver healing virtues to the one needing healing? I also want to believe that the mind is a very important tool or channel of healing for the entire human organism. The use of tranquilisers and also, especially placebos, are ways that clearly suggest that the mind affects also the way the body – a physical aspect of the individual reacts to the call to healing, and bodily repair.

Painting by Gani Odutokun

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Herodotus, History of Our Art, and World Civilisation

If only Herodotus, the father of history were alive to hear that the Nigerian government sometime last year deleted as it were, the subject – History from the school curriculum, he would have cried like a baby for the shame and heartbreak this would have brought him. But how can any well meaning society or leadership decide to do that; it simply means you have equally refused to learn from history, and all to your own peril. This is certainly ill advised, except of course there is something they are trying to hide from you and I – how sorry. O Herodotus, will thou still rest in peace at the dawning of this mire and odium oozing from our time and milieu!?
Egypt - Mother of Civilisation

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fine Art: Perception, Seeing and Meaning of Aesthetics

It is true that art is spiritual; it is also true that art is ever present with us. In the words of the late sculptor and art educator, Mr. Sam Majemite: “Look at the whole man-made world, all you see is art.” There cannot be a better truth. In all my years as a practising artist and art writer, I have come to a better understanding of the intrinsic values of (fine) art simply by noticing people’s perception of the world around them. Art embodies all works having to do with human creativity – works wrought by human hands; fine art deals with fineness, and even finesse as a concept; it is about any work requiring specialised skills. But art transcends the physical essence; art is – romancing with the muse.

Leonardo da Vinci

It was the Renaissance man – Leonardo da Vinci who rightly stated that “The eye is the window of the soul”; such amazing thought. It summarises all that art and the artist is about. At this point you would wonder if art is not a branch of philosophy; well, I think it is. Drawing inference from the power of conjecture, and how different people tend to observe differently, seeing and looking become two markedly divergent concepts.

Friday, September 18, 2015

ARTZERO Exhibition: Visual Artists Feast on Thoughts at Alliance Francaise

ARTZERO is an artistic and creative platform for synergistic activities between visual artists and allied stake holders in the creative community. Thus Mr. Ato Arinze and his crew as spearheads of this coming together of creative energies have worked resiliently to keep the fire of this communion alive.

'Sobriety' - Ink on paper by Morgan Nwanguma

And for a period of time spanning 2002 and now, ARTZERO has endeavoured to pull creative forces together in collaborative efforts to foster a cross fertilisation of ideas, thoughts and styles. This vision has also encouraged in no small measure a reawakening in the visual arts, in that artists who many at times wrongly or rightly may be construed as recluses, and ungregarious, are given the opportunity to congregate with a common goal in refreshing atmosphere. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fine Art as a Tool for Societal Development, and the Dire Need for a Revival

The social nay political direction of any given society will definitely be predicated on the norms and societal values that guide such a community. But when there is a lack of these, it should not come as a surprise to anyone why things do not seem to work. Thus there must be a philosophical direction; there must be certain ideals or national values which a society must uphold in its quest for national development and sustenance. These values are not necessarily packaged in any form of written constitution, but they are qualities and ethical behaviours that the generality of the society cherish and are avowed to defend. Nigeria, I can say definitely lacks this for now.

Watercolour painting by Morgan Nwanguma
In a society whereby it does not matter how you attain positions and climb the social ladder; in a society where mediocrity and nepotism is the order of the day; and in a society where ethnic, religious and tribal leanings are the pre-requisites for decision making and agitations, such a society is next to a failed society. In a society where primitive acquisition rules, there cannot be any meaningful progress, justice and genuine peace. My drift is that there is so much intrinsic value imbued in art that our society can tap from for the upliftment of the human spirit; it is the lifting of the human essence and spirit that paves way for genuine cross fertilisation of ideas and consequently, the fledgling of creative thoughts for the building of a greater larger human society.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Issues in Contemporary Nigerian art – a Book Launch

The much awaited book - ‘Issues in Contemporary Nigerian art’ which was conceptualised and compiled by the Nigerian Artist, Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce, was finally brought to birth as artists and art buffs, including the media, were invited to be part of the unveiling in a colourful public event.

Thus practitioners of the arts in various genres made up of mainly the visual artists, writers, theatre practitioners, photographers, critics, art buffs including renowned patrons and people from the academia were all there to grace the occasion of the launch of the book 'Issues in Contemporary Nigerian Art (2000-2010)' conceived and compiled by Juliet Ezenwa Maja Pearce. The event came up at the Yemaja Art Gallery under a relaxed airy atmosphere, in Lagos on Saturday, 08 August, 2015. The book launch also included a round table discussions and debate in an event that was chaired by Dr. (Mrs.) Peju Layiwola, Head of Department of Creative Arts in University of Lagos.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

El Anatsui – Experimental Artist, Sculptor, and a Golden Lifetime of Achievements

Recently renowned artist and lecturer, Professor El Anatsui, won the acclaimed Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale. Ghanaian born El Anatsui having worked and lived in Nigeria for the past 45 years has always been dynamic and outstanding in his innovative experimentations with especially unconventional materials such as found or discarded objects.

Professor El Anatsui

The erudite and restless artist during a lifetime of teaching in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has obviously conquered many frontiers and broken aesthetic and creative bounds. Having worked extensively with wood, fabrics, ceramics, paint and all manner of found objects - all built into a unique oeuvre, this sculptor has accumulated a legacy that is legendary including a repertoire of shimmering sculptures and, or installations that have toured the globe in recent times.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Body Art of Tattoos: Enter 3D, Optical Illusion and Digital Designs

From time immemorial body art has been with man; ancient people and tribes had scarification, body paintings and drawings. Scarification were incisions put on the body; for instance, the men in some African tribes scarify their faces and bodies as, or for purposes of tribal identification or rituals, while body paintings and drawings were achieved using earth and plant dyes or pigments usually for aesthetic reasons. These designs were not necessarily detailed decorations.

Elaborate tattoo on the back

In modern times however, tattoos are still with us, or have made a comeback mainly as a form of self expression by the youths majorly, and especially in the urban centres. But wherever else you see tattoos, it has remained for the same primordial reasons of tribal aesthetics, ritual or religious and ceremonial purposes, etc. In Igbo traditional settings for example, the Uli design which is primarily a form of wall decoration, was also extended to body beautification especially of maidens whom most of the time were rather scantily dressed with cloth but with heavy adornment of beads.

Uli body decoration of the Igbo

Also, in the northern or Hausa/Fulani dominated regions of Nigeria, Lali is a popular body art also especially of the female folks. Many at times these adornments were put up for one celebration or ceremony or the other such as virginity rites or wedding preparations of maidens, etc. All of these and more are tattoos in their rights, and they have today returned with a rather different swing.

Monday, May 25, 2015

‘Raphael under Threat’ as Priceless Painting Buckles Under High Humidity

One of the priceless paintings produced by the famous Renaissance master Raphael, has recently come under serious threat of total spoilage due to the fact that the air-conditioning system in the gallery has become disused.

'The Deposition' by Raphael

The Borghese Gallery in Rome houses so many important masterpieces and ‘The Deposition’ is one of them. This particular painting by Raphael is also one of the worst hit by the adverse effect of humidity which has seen the work warping, all owing to the fact that the air-conditioning system in the room has started to malfunction, or is completely broken down. It is surprising however to observers that the authorities of the Borghese Gallery have not been able to fix the problematic cooling system which is needed to preserve the works.

Friday, May 15, 2015

$179 million For a Picasso as Painting Shatters Record at Christie’s Auctions

I am glad to let you know that the great twentieth century master is in the news again! An all time record was recently recorded at the world famous Christie’s at the latest art auction that took place. This is clearly the highest amount ever realised at any auction of a painting or any form of artwork. Exactly $179.4 million is the record value fetched by Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece titled ‘Les Femmes d’Alger, Version O’.

'Les Femmes d’Alger, Version O' by Picasso

A telephone bid made by an unidentified buyer was how the artwork was carted away, beating the last record which had stood since 2013, of the $142.2 million which was paid for the work of Francis Bacon’s triptych “Three Studies of Lucien Freud”. This was in the month of November, 2013.

During the recent auctions at Christie’s, the sale of Pablo Picasso’s painting was the peak of the event on that day. In the same day at the auctions, an all time bumper sale was also recorded in that some of the world’s wealthiest people who are chasing scarce masterpieces did not fail to cart away so much, resulting in the total gross of $706 million worth of art in just one evening! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bruce Onobrakpeya – Erudite Nigerian Artist, Scholar and Print-Maker of Many Colours

He is undoubtedly Nigeria's best-documented artist; Bruce Onobrakpeya needs very little introduction in art circles both within and outside of the country. He is indeed a living legend; Bruce Onobrakpeya has devoted his life to his work, and is today regarded in some quarters as the main custodian of Urhobo folklore and culture. He never forgets his roots; he is unapologetically attached to the history, art and culture of the Urhobo people of South-South Nigeria. He tells their rich history and portrays unendingly the colourful cultures of his people in his writings, paintings and of course his major medium of expression – print-making

Bruce Onobrakpeya

Bruce Onobrakpeya is a founding member of the Zaria rebels; they were actually a group of young artists who formed the nucleus of the art department or the Zaria (art) School when the current Ahmadu Bello University was known as the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (NCAST). He is of course also a shining light among the first generation of academically trained artists who were responsible for the renaissance in Nigeria’s contemporary art.

 He was in the vanguard of the early league with contemporaries such as Ben Enwonwu, Yusuf Grillo, Uche Okeke, Demas Nwoko, etc. In the course of his academic and studio exploits, Onobrakpeya had pitched his tent with, and triumphed through his vision from St. Gregory's College, Lagos, where he headed the fine art department - teaching, raising and mentoring so many disciples including one of his popular protégés – David Dale, also an accomplished print-maker. 

After a memorable stint in the school which spanned a period of about thirteen years, he retired fully into his studio – Ovuomaroro Studios located in Mushin, a suburb of Lagos. Since then he has continued working assiduously extending his practice and mentoring a host of adherents through apprenticeship, extensive research, guest lecturing and writing. Through his various workshops and symposia, Bruce Onobrakpeya has influenced generations of young artists, and he is today respected and acknowledged as one of the leading print-makers in the world. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pablo Picasso – Painter and Twentieth Century Art Genius, or Was He a Smart Alec?

It may interest you to know that a lot of cubism and indeed modern art has been attributed to the contributions of one man – a genius of the twentieth century, and an artist whose legacy and life of art in the recent centuries have remained almost unmatched. Pablo Picasso was born in Spain in 1881, he was an infant genius who was recognised and helped early in life by his father who was also his teacher. The small Museo de Picasso is situated in Barcelona; it is a place that is strictly devoted to housing especially some of Picasso’s early works which also includes even a range of very realistic casts of ancient sculptures. 

Pablo Picasso (photo by Herbert List)

As a youngster Picasso was a non conformist of some sort, and he began frequenting the Barcelona cafes where intellectuals often gathered. Very soon he went to Paris which is regarded as the capital of art and familiarised himself thoroughly with the works of masters like Gustave Courbet, Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec. Their sketchy styles of work inspired him a great deal; later he was off, and returned to Spain, then to France, then again to Spain all in the period 1899 – 1904.

Before Pablo Picasso discovered cubism he had experimented with, and gone through fascinating different styles such as realism, caricature, the Blue Period and the Rose Period. His blue period for instance ran from 1901-1904, and featured predominantly a blue palette, and his works then focussed mainly on depicting the lives of outcasts, prostitutes and beggars. At this period of his career, he produced some of his first works of sculpture in this style including a painting piece he did depicting his childhood friend - the Spanish poet Casagemas, who had committed suicide. And this work is a permanent collection of Cleveland's Museum of Art, La Vie.

'Guernica', painting by Pablo Picasso

The painting started off as a self portrait but ended up being that of his late bosom friend. Another popular work of Picasso’s of this period is the 1903 piece in the Metropolitan which he called ‘The Blind Man's Meal’. Another example is the very lyrical and mysterious piece housed in the Toledo Museum of Art titled ‘the haunting Woman with a Crow’ (1903). 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Watercolour Painting – How to Lay On a Successful Wash

In classical modern watercolour painting, there are guiding rules and techniques that apply. For instance, if you wish to put on a flat wash on your paper which of course you must have stretched, here is what to do: You have to mix the colour you want to lay on making sure you mix it in double quantity before starting out. You have to double the quantity you need because once you begin, you will not be able to stop to mix up another more quantity of paint.

Illustration of washes by Marion Boddy-Evans

Once you are set, make sure your painting (board) surface is tilted up just a bit, and begin by using your largest painting brush. But note that if you want to lay an even wash to your paper or any particular area of the paper, you should firstly dampen the area with water using a large brush or sponge. And so you can decide to lay an even wash or a graded wash. Now, load your brush and gently lay it on - sweeping from the top left of the paper i.e. assuming that you are right handed like me, towards the right and also downwards.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Landscape Painting and the Guiding Rules of Design, Harmony & Balance

Throughout painting history, artists have explored and exploited the landscape as a very important theme for expression. Landscape which generally means any form of portrayal of the earth in cognisance of the natural environment is a classical concept for romantic painters. Usually, it is either a mere portrayal or composition of nature per se, or an assemblage of nature with human intervention as regards the land, and or with an attendant body of water to it like the sea or river, etc.

I like to further describe landscape painting as the artist’s portrayal of any view of countryside, town, land and sky, water or even sea, in a panoramic, grandiose, local or intimate style. In drawing and painting landscapes however, all the elements of design and the ingredients of composition must be brought to bear because in the final analysis, no matter how colourful or populated your expression may be, if it tends to make the viewer overtly uncomfortable, then something must be perhaps technically wrong with it.

Watercolour painting: (c) Morgan Nwanguma

Thus a sense of balance and harmony must be enjoyed by anyone who views your landscape painting. There must be a sense of design which welds your composition in a harmonious and rhythmic fashion: the plains, rolling hills, the rivers or sea, must correspond with the sky and the entirety of nature, animals, human beings and structures, while producing a successful ‘piece of visual enjoyment’. 

When considering landscapes, I am forced to bring to mind old masters such as the duo of British greats - JMW Turner (1775-1851), and John Constable (1776-1837). Turner was an English landscape painter whose treatment of light and colour is said to have influenced the French impressionists. These old masters were outstanding and eloquent in the use of the two most important mediums of painting i.e. oil and watercolour. Personally, landscape painting is one of my favourite themes, and it draws with it and for me nostalgia and romantic sentimentalism. Quaint and natural landscapes especially of (rural) country sides, and even ruins, are just it for me, while some artists I know are also able to portray urban and city landscapes in a manner that will make you just fall in love.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Defining the Various Forms of Drawing Materials

There are really quite lots of drawing materials that are available for you to try out, and I must add that they are also very affordable compared to say, painting materials like oil paints for instance. It is however by plodding and experimenting with these materials that you will be able to know which one or combination of drawing materials you will fall in love with, and may wish to eventually adopt at the end of the day.

'Biola' - pastel drawing by Morgan Nwanguma

I will further let you know that as a professional artist there is no limiting the height you can assail even by the sole application of any one or a combination of some of these materials. Thus you could stand out of the crowd excelling as a draughtsman in say conte renditions, illustration, or in producing pastel pictures, etc.

The followings are some of the popular drawing mediums that are available to you either as a student artist, amateur or professional.

Carbon Pencil

This is a soft black pencil that produces texture like that of eighteenth century pencil drawings.

Chalk Pastel

This medium is a soft stick of delicate and pale coloured drawing and painting material. It comes in ranges of pale hues of pigments mixed with chalk. Chalk pastel usually would require fixing after use; otherwise, framing your drawing behind glass immediately after use will be called for.


This medium comes in brittle sticks of black carbon material. It is a specially prepared residue of burnt wood; it is only presented in black and usually also needing to be fixed with a spray of fixative.


Conte is the shortened form of conte chalk; it is usually produced in a square shape stick and also mostly coloured in brown, sanguine or terra-cotta red, black and white. Conte sticks are brittle but slightly harder and not powdery like chalk pastel, and will equally require fixing after you have produced your drawing with it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Thinker - The Mind of the Artist and Problem Solving Techniques

Thinking is actually an art; it is a noble past time engaged by men and women of thoughts. Thinking is a great favourite habit of great minds, men of lofty dreams and ideals. Mind you – I did not say worrying, in that from the very surface of things, worrying and thinking may seem like one and the same, but you and I very well know deep down that there is a big difference. And sometimes too, there may just be a thin line separating the two concepts.

'The thinker' by Auguste Rodin

Great men, including great minds of the arts solve problems pertaining to their preoccupations and would-be issues of everyday life by thinking through issues. But worrying leads rather to an increased blood pressure tending to escalate the already bad situations. And this brings me to the issue and famous figure of ‘The Thinker’ – a universal image and symbol of a man in deep contemplative mood. I am referring to the work of the famous French sculptor, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), who in his life time produced a great number of iconic images of which the most famous is ‘The Thinker’. He was highly noted and respected for the way he rendered human forms in whatever medium or style he chose to execute his works – clay, bronze, or stone, etc.

It is an established fact however that the habit of meditation which is a positive aspect of deep thought is the basis for all real knowledge. It is thinkers that brought about revolutions that have turned around societies for eternal good; it has been the one instrumentality - the positive act that led to the building of empires and civilisations. Great thoughts gave birth to the huge industrial developments, designs, and inventions we have seen, heard and read about throughout the ages.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Understanding the Power and Psychology of Colours, and Colour Application in painting

Colour is a sensitive aspect of painting; the psychology of colour makes you to understand that it is not just enough to apply colour to a drawing, but it calls for a sensitive mind to understand and use colours; this of course comes from training and a considerable period of practice. In fact during the course of training I came to understand why the artist is completely cut out from the rest of society. I have come to understand why the artist may appear even strange in the eyes of everyone else; it is in the same vein that the artist to my mind is the most observant of all ‘species’ of human beings. The artist is very sensitive to everything. As a matter of fact, I tend to notice everything that has to do with colour (harmony) and balance, be it in art or architecture, fashion, textile design, graphics, etc. 

Colour palette - coutesy:

Colour application, and sensitivity is freely encountered in the fleeting and permanent dialogues that ensue when pigments of various hues interact on the various mediums of expression in art and design, including also interior decoration and industrial design as well, etc. It is the nature of colours to react either harmoniously or otherwise in the course of mixing and eventual final application. Thus complementary colours will always blend and give you a sense of harmony and calmness. But when colours do not seem to match, they immediately will arouse a feeling of disharmony, riot or uneasiness and, what have you? Thus a combination of brown of umber, and ochre will readily blend into a calm earthy mood; but try juxtaposing a brilliant red with cadmium yellow, it is not exactly very complementary if you are out in search of true harmony. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

How to Prepare Quality Homemade Primer and Canvas

There is no hard and fast rule actually concerning what to use as support or surface for your oil painting. By this I mean you could paint on any surface that has been well treated for the purpose of painting on, and these supports may range from very cheap paper to wood, and to expensive canvas. The bottom line is that the surface must be well treated or prepared before you set out to paint. 

Quality Control

The point in all of these is that you make sure the oil from your oil paint is not sucked up by the surface; you do not want to see the oil from your pigment sinking to the back of your support and leaving the pigment flaking off or looking like chalk afterwards.

'Mobile' (oil/canvas) by Morgan Nwanguma

Another important thing you must guard against is that if your painting surface is not well primed or prepared, you are likely to end up having your painting cracking in no distant time. You must make sure to avoid this because it could lead to a very big embarrassment and also able to badly soil your reputation as an artist. How will you feel if perhaps you have just produced what you term as a masterpiece and before long you or even worse still, your patron reports that he has observed crackles in your painting which he just bought the previous year?

Every practicing artist I dare say, will be damned to see this happen to him or her; it will be most unethical and unacceptable for a professional. To avoid this sort of embarrassment I will now take you through a simple process of priming or preparing your canvas that you could undertake at home, in your studio by yourself. But if you can afford to buy the ready primed canvas from your art store, good for you, yet this is a skill every (professional) artist ought to know right from art school.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Preparations for Painting

A couple of years back I was in a gallery and the owner of the place, as he was selecting a few of my canvas works began conferring with me: He asked “Morgan, please how can I be sure that these paintings would last for a long time, at least enough time for me to have fully enjoyed them?” I was very curious to know why he had asked because he had had amongst his numerous collections a few of my older works that are still in great condition, even while I assured him of the durability of the paintings, he just could not stop expressing his worries as he continued to point at some works he had dug up from a certain heap of collections from the adjoining room. I enquired to know why he was so concerned at this time.

'Kitchen fresh' oil on canvas by Morgan Nwanguma

My dear collector responded: “I am not actually referring to your paintings per se, but I am worried about every other new collection I take into my gallery”. He continued: “Just a week ago I searched out among some of my favourite collections, a canvas from one of the younger artists, but to my greatest disappointment, the painting that is not up to two years of age was already peeling off!” He wanted to know why so many paintings today hardly stand the test of time, adding that so many paintings that were executed centuries ago are still hanging in galleries abroad especially in Europe and America, and still looking very healthy.

To cut short the story of our conversation, I had to allay his fears and explained to him what I thought was the problem. 

You see, I find so many faults in the curriculum, or should I say – it could just be laxity on the part of the lecturers who perhaps are too lazy if not selfish, to impart the right knowledge to their students. Some people, including lecturers, frown at the idea of staging practical demonstrations before their class for fear of leading the class towards being one directional in their approach to practicing their art, say for instance - painting. The argument is that when they (lecturers) do this, the students will not be able to chart their own personal course or style.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Segun Taylor’s Yesteryears Photo Exhibition

Culled from an essay titled ‘Yesteryears – Reflections through the Lenses’ by the same author and published in The UNION Newspaper on March 2, 2014.

 An admixture of colour and Black/White images brought alive from times past, was the tone set in the ever friendly ambiance of the National Museum (Lagos) exhibition hall, where the Photographer, Segun Taylor poured out her feelings in thematic visual offerings.

Sometimes her sojourns in foreign lands brought against the backdrop of her Nigerian experience, has indeed welled up a unique energy in her sobering reminiscences. This makes one able to draw inferences for constructive comparisons regarding the various and diverse cultures and environments from which she has freely tapped inspirations for her works. Sometimes also, her experiences have tended to bring about eloquent conversations and dialogues relating to the realities and challenges of a festering social milieu.
Segun Taylor - Photographer

Segun Taylor captures especially the variegated, albeit predominantly sombre sights and sounds of both modern and even ‘yesteryears’ Nigeria. She does not mince words in her predilection for capturing the need for a social rebirth. Her lenses have traversed and travailed across the vast landscape – like a woman with child; she groans and bears our collective pains rising from her tripod. From the rustic landscapes, to the rural and even sub-urban reflections of poverty and squalor, to the picturesque country, and down to the city hustle and bustle, this artiste draws visuals bearing so many tales too much for a writer to put down.

None of the photographs on display have a title, neither is any dated - intentionally so; for doing otherwise Segun reckons will only go to restrict and diminish the interpretation as well as the ongoing conversations: How could an impoverished haggard looking old guy sitting in front of his lonely thatched mud hut tucked away in a rural wilderness be calm and smiling at you? The wardrobe of rags and litter hang right there in your face, and his kitchen all bare with sooth and burnt soup, and he smiles at you still; he is not afraid for himself or anything, not even for the little kid who stands by, looking on – talk about he that is already down. Is this contentment or insanity, when ravenous politicians are still killing each other over the next elections? There must be a lesson to take away from all these. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Leonardo da Vinci – the Renaissance man

Have you ever heard of the Renaissance Man; what about the painting called ‘Mona Lisa’; do you know of the one who first thought of the possibility of flying that he even went ahead to execute drawings of flying machines centuries before man ever actualised that dream? These and many more are all attributable to one man, indeed one of the greatest geniuses if not the greatest, that ever walked the surface of this planet earth. I am talking of Leonardo da Vinci. Thus this is my personal perception of the universe man whose body of works has continued to astound everybody around the world. That is Leonardo da Vinci - the legend and enigma; a bundle of unquantifiable creative opulence.

‘Virgin of the Rocks’ - Painting

Thus Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, republic of Florence or present day Italy; he excelled in everything he ever set out his mind to do: He was outstanding as an artist (painter, sculptor, and draughtsman); he was equally outstanding and accomplished as an architect, poet, anatomist, writer, musician, mathematician, inventor, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and engineer. The world’s most famous piece of painting today, and the most expensive at that – Mona Lisa, is the work of this genius, and it is at least five hundred years old now. If you think of the popular painting called ‘The Last Supper’, it is also attributable to this great man of the arts and sciences. 

‘The Last Supper’ - Painting by Leonardo da Vinci

So much of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings have given vent to the drawings of anatomy that medical doctors make use of today. He sort of exemplifies the meaning and essence of the entire Renaissance period in that he stood as a figure towering centrally about this epoch. This was the period of European history at the close of the Middle Ages and the rise of the modern world; a cultural rebirth from the 14th through the middle of the 17th centuries. 

Monday, January 19, 2015


Have you ever heard of the ‘Sistine Madonna’? This is just one of the many in the popular series of the ‘Madonna’ pieces of (oil) paintings executed by the leading light of Italian High Renaissance Classicism. It was indeed his last work in the series which he completed around 1514. The Madonna (and child) series simply depict a portrait of the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus. Well, for me this is the first image I have in my mind that calls up the fantastic artistic persona that is simply referred to as Raphael. Raphael was among the foremost figures of the Renaissance period that blossomed in Europe and centred mainly on Italy. 

Self portrait by Raphael

 Raphael, born Raffaello Sanzio was an infant genius of some sort. He was born on April 6, 1483, in Urbino, Italy. He was apprenticed to Perugino in 1504. He was a prominent personality of the Italian High Renaissance Classicism. At the tender age of eleven when his father died, Raphael took over the management of his father’s (Giovanni Santi – a painter for the Duke of Urbino) studio. Even as a teenager he did not waste time in surpassing his father’s accomplishments and started to attract huge commissions as he was already the most important painter around. Some of the big official commissions the very young Raphael garnered included paintings for the Church of San Nicola in the neighbouring town of Castello.

Later in the same year 1504, Raphael left his apprenticeship career under his master Perugino and went to Florence. There he was exposed to the numerous and ambitious works of great Italian master painters who had come before him such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo,  Fra Bartolommeo, and Masaccio.

Raphael grew up learning and working tirelessly, and in no time became an accomplished and celebrated Painter and Architect. He did a series of ‘Madonnas’ one of which is The Sistine Madonna, and executed also a number of frescoes when he moved to live in Rome. He thus decorated parts of the vatican (room) ‘Stanze’ with great compositions including the ones he called The Triumph of Religion and The School of Athens at the instance of Pope Julius II.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mona Lisa

Can you just imagine a priceless pieceof artwork that is beyond insurance? Mona Lisa unlike most people would think is not actually an imaginary title of a piece of art work. Rather, this painting (1503-7), executed by the greatest artist and creative mind so far modern history has known, arguably, – the Italian Renaissance master, Leonardo da Vinci, and measuring 77cmx53cm, is the portrait of the wife of a local Italian peasant.

Today this painting also arguably, is the most important singular piece of artwork that is available, both in terms of value, as well as popularity, and bearing in mind that it is after all not a very large scale job per se. The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the history of art and continues to inspire oil painting reproductions, parody, scientific theory, and more. According to the Guinness Book of world Records, Mona Lisa was assessed for insurance purposes at $100 million in 1962, but insurance was not concluded because the cost of the strictest security precautions was less that of the premium.

'Mona Lisa' by Leonardo da Vinci

Mona Lisa which is housed in the popular (Gallery) Louvre in Paris, France, is a jealously and heavily guarded and secured piece of art. It is protected in a climate controlled environment and encased in bullet proof glass, a room which caused seven million dollars to build at the time. This painting which is considered priceless and cannot be insured has since become a proud property of the French people and government, and has therefore survived more than 500 years today.

Mona Lisa has been an object of great inspiration for many a creative mind all over the world: notable among the many is the sonorous African American voice of decades ago – the great Nath King Cole of blessed memory. As you fall in love with the melodious music extolling the virtues and beauty of Mona Lisa, you equally fall for the unmistakable and arresting beauty of the lady in the picture.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Social Re-Engineering and the Need for a National Policy on Art

  • Culled from an essay first published in The UNION Newspaper (Sunday March 9, 2014) by the same author  

The business of art is a topic that is hardly discussed or considered in corporate or investment circles in Nigeria. This is evident of the level of unawareness that pervades our entire society. However, it is also a fact that a depressed economy is not exactly a fertile ground for the flowering of a robust art culture; hence it is popular knowledge that art is mostly an elitist meal. A patron of art must have the power of purchase as it were. But that is speaking in the formalistic sense. Suffice it to say however that in everyday human existence there is art, and so in that sense we all are indirectly and unconsciously involved in the patronage and usage of art and artistic creations.

Dr. Nnamdi Asikiwe by Ben Enwonwu

But the issue is that our society is still a fledgling and so we are still grappling with the pedestrian issues of survival and consumption culture. As a people, we wallow in a self imposed life style of distractions, anxiety and disorientation. Among the signposts of development and I dare say, civilisation and modern development, is the level of artistic nay creative awareness and cultural values. By the time a conscious awareness and orientation is built into the system by purposeful policies, it generally rubs off on every sector of societal developmental machinery.

It is sad to say that the spirit and power behind our great artistic heritage and civilisations of the world renowned Igbo Ukwu, Nok, Benin and Ife cultures, etc, were lost somewhere along the line in the course of time. The instrument necessary for the quest for societal change and leadership thrust lie in the letters, art, and an informed sense of aesthetics. The leadership will necessarily employ the instrumentality of these tools in galvanising society. Thus scientists, engineers as well as designers, and technocrats alike, etc, are put to work by a consciously defined timeless philosophy that is built on beauty and taste.

In the advanced climes it is normal, and it is also a matter of policy that every public building have in its plan and construction, provision for artistic embellishment. It is a part of the architectural policy; it is also a part of the landscaping, and tourism policy, for all that it matters. And these will generally include historical, aesthetic, monumental, cultural, and economical considerations and all their implications.

Ideally in this manner, every civic project development ought to have a certain portion (at least one per cent of the total budget) allocated to fund art that will be incorporated into it. A reserve fund also should always be in place at the local council, state, or central government authority, for the consistent fuelling of this vital ingredient for a harmonious interior and public ambience. And the ramifications and advantages are awesome.

Art appreciation and the value of aesthetics as a matter of conscious policy decisions must be inculcated into our leadership and the citizenry to birth this revolution. And by the time this is done, we will begin to see a great attitudinal redirection and changes that will on their own begin to fashion our existence as a civilised people and nation.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

African Artists Foundation Annual Art Competition (2014) - Erasmus Onyishi wins

Finally the art competition organised by the African Artists Foundation and Nigerian Breweries Plc, has come to a glorious conclusion especially for Erasmus Onyishi who won the first prize and carting away the handsome reward of 2 million naira in cash. Also, for the outstanding concept prize winner – Modupe fadugba, it was sweet victory going home with a cash of 1 million naira. The outstanding production prize of 1 million naira too, went to Paul Mbah, while two other finalists – Nkechi Ebubedike and Amarachi Okafor won for themselves 500 thousand naira each for their equally superlative performances.

Lines patches and pathos - mixed media by Erasmus Onyishi

The competition, and event of the prize presentation and exhibition that followed, which took place at the Civic Centre on November 26, 2014 in Victoria Island – Lagos, lived up to its billing and high standards. The juried competition was raised in stature and allure by the judging panel of respected professionals led by eminent artist and university don, Professor El Anatsui with the inclusion of a special jurors’ prize this time around.

They also had to increase the prize money for the winners because of the high standard and quality of works of art that were seen in this year’s turn out by the participants. This laudable project which was inaugurated in 2008 first came out with theme – ‘Unbreakable Nigerian Spirit’ at that time. But this year the contending artists had to weave their creative energies round the concept of Intervention. I thought it was an interesting and highly engaging theme which encouraged artists to conceive a perception of their environment in consideration of its ever changing socio-cultural as well as political coexistence, and variegated nuances of the present milieu.

The Civic Centre, location of African Artists Foundation

I am highly encouraged and indeed full of praises for the work of the African artists Foundation and their partners – Nigerian Breweries Plc for the nature and steady growth of this project. Thus by the time twelve artists were shortlisted from the crowd of hundreds that submitted proposals, a week-long retreat and art workshop followed immediately where the artists were guided by highly experienced professionals through a process of fleshing up their creative ideas. Very importantly, they were each given stipends to enable them fully bring to birth what their creative energies had conceived in the form of the final artworks for the competition and exhibition.

All in Your Eyes