After being recently featured in Financial Times as one of the most promising young artists in Lagos, Artist debuts his collection When we are not what we are in Lagos.
On June 8, Rele Gallery, supported by Cointreau, opened its doors to the public for the first solo exhibition of visual artist, Sejiro Avoseh, titled 'When we are not what we are'. A commentary on human experiences and existential conditions, this body of work comprises four distinct series, inspired by the artist's own life and feature his signature figuration of automobile-related faces, paint and collage.
Avoseh's claim to time travelling heavily reflects in his work — exploring the past to relate it to the present and conceptualise the future. He does this while also questioning the status quo by highlighting both societal and political issues.
For instance, the 'Enlightenment' series draws inspiration from the teachings the artist got from his mother as a child. It examines biblical characters and stories, with how they relate to present-day society. A painting from this series, 'Last Supper', which is a reimagination of DaVinci's Last Supper, features Christ as a metaphor of a leader. However, the food is centred around the table and the leader is the only one eating. This reflects how Avoseh sees present-day society.
Another painting, 'Saviour of the world' depicts Jesus Christ how the artist sees Christ, and not how he thinks Christ is supposed to look. Avoseh insists that the relationship with Christ matters more than the visual presentation.
Speaking to Pulse on the representation of Christ, Avoseh says, "We should not engage ourselves with unnecessary discussions about how Christ looks."
The 'Physiognomical Distinction' series questions the act of judging people by their physical appearance. It was first exhibited at the Young contemporary exhibition Jan 2017 but its message needed to be stressed to a wider audience. It implores its audience to embrace one another beyond facades.
The 'Radio' series is inspired by Radio photography series of late Malian photographer, Seydou Keita, who engages the audience about the radio as an educative tool. Speaking on the gradual extinction of the radio, Avoseh says:
"Bringing it to the future, the radio is now filled with irrelevant things... diluted content. People tell news to be safe, not to inform."
The final series, 'Stay with me', explores the quest of how man finds life meaning through his relationship with others. His art in this series implores the audience to see life as a pyramid.
"People up the pyramid need to realise that the people down there are equally important," Avoseh says.
Women are the prominent figures in his work. In 'Eden', a story of creation told about the interaction of man and woman, Avoseh's art tells a story of two women instead.
"It's supposed to be a man and a woman, yet the man is ending up looking like a woman," He says, chuckling. "I create those things subconsciously, maybe because of my relationship with women. My life has been centred around women."
Bringing scraps together to make a work of art
Visual artist, Sejiro Avoseh, is an "Egun boy" from Badagry, Lagos, who holds a Higher Diploma in painting from the Lagos state polytechnic, Ikorodu, Lagos. He considers himself a visual artist, and not a painter, because he expresses himself through different art media, such as sculpture, mixed media and paint. With strong surreal effects, he renders his imaginations using paint and collage materials.
"My life has been like bringing scraps together to make a work of art," Avoseh says in his interview with Pulse.
For the past 3 years, he has created intricately detailed works inspired by his personal experiences and uses life as a tool to make his work. His signature car-related features stem from his ideology that life is a journey. In his own words, "I see myself as a traveller through life."
When we are not what we are is his first solo exhibition, though his work has been seen at the Young Contemporaries exhibition and Art X Lagos.
In an essay written by Yinka Olujoba, Avoseh speaks out about his painting process. "I am a man coming out of black. I paint because there are things i need to let go of," he says.
While talking to Pulse, he explains:
"Coming out of black: How I slept in classrooms and people gathered money for me to get myself through school. This life experience fuels this series. No man is an island, we need ourselves to survive."
Coming out of Black inspires another section of the exhibition, an installation room, where collages of scrap paper cover most of the wall while black solid paint covers the rest. It depicts the transition between black and colour phases of life and how those phases and life experiences fuel the decisions we make, and consequently, who we become.