Is that a ship at sea? I ask. Well, she says, It’s actually a garden. I don’t see the garden, but I see other things: the skyline, the sails of a yacht, sea monsters and birds riding out of the waves. I point these out. I’ve never seen it that way before, she says. For a moment we both stare in silence. It is amazing how many meanings can be contained in a work of art.
Visual art doesn’t readily open up itself to me. It requires me to work, to get out of myself and see more than my eyes will permit. I stand in front of a mixed media piece of a woman in triplicate, her eyes blocked out by crimson, and cosmos in the background. It’s like she’s taking it all in—the universe—without looking. I don’t really get this, but I decide not to ask for help. Well, it’s not exactly a decision, for silence is my default.
I work out a maze. It has multiple solutions. This I have to ask. I feel a small joy when the artist says that was her intention. There are many ways to self-actualisation. For dress, the painting has scraps of paper, one of which says: Finding yourself doesn’t require settling on a fixed identity.
Truth or dare, another asks of me. I’ve never been a fan of games, except when we’re playing charades and I get to rely on another to interpret my actions. She does not leave the interpretations to me. There are poems below the images that attempt to nudge me towards meaning. But I’m stubborn. In my head, I separate the images from the poems and play charades with the monochrome figures. I’m always forgiving of my idiosyncrasies.
Twice, I go out to recalibrate my ears for noise. To take an aural cleanse, more like. Young and old mill around the gallery. There are cameras everywhere—mobile phones, SLRs, DSLRs. It’s not about the equipment, one tells another. Snap, snap. Pose, pose. Wine disappears down pretty faces and colourful bodies. My body shrinks in the presence of the crowd, but my mind wants to be here, in the moment. I’m getting better at this, I tell myself. At drawing out meanings from art that doesn’t offer it easily. I’m learning how to pay attention to something other than words.
Here, in real time, five women bloom. Their work fills the blank white space with life, and the life present bears witness to their work. To bloom is to grow, Number Four screams at me. To grow is to be emancipated. To be an enigma. To be a bushfire. To contain infinities. To speak out loudly, with colour. But to grow is also to bleed at the end of speaking, like the colours of a painting travelling unrestricted down the canvas.
Woman in Bloom is an exhibition of works by four artists: Eloghosa Osunde, Laju Omagbitse, Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu, and Junachi Obi. It is curated by Anna Kovie Parker and will run till the 9th of October 2015 at the Kongi’s Harvest, the art gallery, Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos Island.