BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
Princess Tessy Iyase-Odozi’s blends perfectly with her art; she wears her strokes and shades. This reflected much in her debut solo exhibition titled Arrival, which she describes as “a collection of contemporary paintings.” Every art piece on display inside the National Museum Gallery, venue of the show, talks about a particular characteristic of the artist: boldness either in colour, format or concept.
She grouped the exhibition into: mundane, artwork, abstract and spiritual contemplation. Her interpretation of native dance steps in Dancing Queen, Swing Energy, Ugie Dance, Synergy, Ivie, all under what she labels the ‘Heritage’, the sub-group was not just dances in the ordinary sense of it, but the regaling of the dancers as enhanced by richness of costumes; Iyase-Odozi’s identity.
For example, why would anyone be so gorgeously dressed to shop in a crowded market? The answer is simple: it’s an Iyase-Odozi’s world of elegance as spotted in the wide screen format, Shop Right. No coincidence here – royalty and elegance are in the blood – her late father was the Iyase N’ Odo, a high chief in the Benin Kingdom.
However, the artist’s strength, so it appeared is in the abstract and spiritual sections. A passionate advocate of green environment, her largely surreal work blends nature with the terrestrial or celestial as seen, for example, in a sword dissolving into flower and other vegetation in Holy Sword; an angel-like imposing figure – enhanced by rainbow – in Gatekeepers; a heavenly dove, candle-light assemblage illuminating the earth in Mainstream are what she explains as “spiritual essence man must give attention to.” She recalls that her “contemplation” about the spiritual realm started quite a while ago and she would not stop interpreting such on the canvas.
SHE argues that her choice of African elements in the heavenly depiction is deliberately to challenge, “Western allegorical paintings, where virtually all the characters are white, except the occasional knave depicted in blacks.”
The abstraction, Identical – and similar works in that context – stands out from the crowd of exhibits. “Really?” Her response explains her innocence on preference of strength.
Also, Ogbon Ijapa (Tortoise’s antics), which reminds one of the notorious characters of the tortoise in most Yoruba folktales, illustrates the design zeal of the artist.
Surprisingly, imperial art was under-played in the show. And with modesty she states that, “it’s a dynamic world, not just about royalty always.”
HAVING had several group outings, perhaps, a solo show was not in her immediate plan until he was told to ‘un-mask yourself’, which was all she needed to unload all she has within her. “I became more skillful, confident and daring.” More importantly, “fulfilled.”
She decides to share part of what inspired her in the book, Discover… The Art in you and be Guided, launched on the opening day of the exhibition.
Some of Iyase-Odozi’s group shows were Naija Women Art Exhibition; Art on the Mainland; Hellenic Images organised by the Greek Embassy in Nigeria.
Collocation in Abuja
Francis Ike, Chike Obeagu, Uche Uzorka, Muyiwa Akinwolere and Bob-Nosa Uwagboe are currently exhibiting in the group show, Collocation, which ends on December 17, 2009 at the Thought Pyramid Art Gallery, F.C.T, Abuja.