Angela Amami Isiuwe is a painter based in Lagos. Born and raised in Abraka (Niger Delta), she attended the Auchi Art school, from which she graduated in the mid 90s. Here, she imparts the emotive significance of her minimalist paintings.
Isiuwe is best known for her paintings; thick and thin lines of black paint, contouring and convening into female forms on canvas. She is a self-confessed compulsive sketcher: of her children (all seven of them), guests, and models. These sketches are a purgative ritual to rid herself of stories. “When I was a teenager, I read a lot and used to illustrate folklore tales,” says Isiuwe, “I spent a fair amount of time on my own. I cherished the space, the freedom, and my own company.”
“Tell a long story briefly and fill it with space”
Isiuwe’s minimalist pictorial style is an attempt to “tell a long story briefly and fill it with space, enabling the viewer to read between the lines and insert personal interpretations,” she clearly asserts. Memorised sketches fuse to form monochromatic esquisse-like paintings of bodies in stoical positions.
The inwardness imbuing her paintings invites the viewer to detach themselves from the superfluous and to embrace introspection. A reactionary, artistic gesture, one might suspect. In the age of corporate intrusiveness and exhibitionist spillages on social media, Isiuwe is undisturbable. “My art is my shield and I do not let myself influence easily,” she explains, “I want to live a quiet life. I am a strong believer in the ‘think global, act local’ dicton.”
The banality of the poses she bestows upon her painted ‘beings’ suggests a return to essential social forms of communication — starting with one’s self. Isiuwe’s minimalist forms evoke the longing for a world which no longer is, an Esperanto-esque attempt to collect and order the human emotions in their universality.
“Do I see myself as a contemporary African artist?” she asks. “My artwork is not defined by my identity, it is not its starting point. If I were to expose my work in a European country, no one would assume that an African women artist was responsible for this. I attribute it to the fact that Africans are where the narrow definition of ‘African’ does not expect them. Our multi-layered identities and cultures are a great asset. Expect surprises and challenges.”
An article by Paula De Almeida
Featured image : Angela Isiuwe, Saturday Night III, 2018, Acrylic On Paper, 22 x 15 inches. Courtesy of the Artist.
This article was written for The Art Momentum | ART X Lagos Artpaper. [French version inside]