Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tea/ Chai/茶

Tea/ Chai/茶
If there's anything I looked forward to the most during my trip to Japan, it definitely was the traditional tea drinking ceremony I always watched on tv and thankfully and very happily I finally had the opportunity to attend one, with our host making traditional green tea the traditional way, it was awesome!
It was so awesome that I had to title my final project chai which means tea in Japanese.
My stay in Yokohama was full of work, talking and more work!! Mari Ishiwata my host is a painter and it was amazing talking and sharing with her as an artist and just as a person.
There’s so much that happened that I don't even know where to begin but pictures say it best! Enjoy


i and ii above- Mari and me

Thanks Akane, Kana and Mrs Ishiwata for all the great food!!


iii & iv - PET bottles and their Labels. Very colorful!


v & vi- Glueing the cut up labels to the board


vii &viii- Koh and Akane helping out


ix, x & xi - At work with my project on PET bottles. There were lots of plastic bottle wastes (properly disposed and recycled too, we went to grab them from people's trash bags in the freezing morning cold before the trucks came for them loll). I am always to attracted to waste objects that I can find in large numbers.




 xii, xiii & xiv -My very first performance done with Mari Ishiwata based on the tea ceremony we went to watch days earlier and we decided to re create ours. For me I would say the performance was a reflection of how our society is gradually ( or rapidly in some cases) loosing old cultures, of which I have no problem with, its bound to happen anyway especially with the level of innovations we see and experience everyday, but none is documented therefore we are loosing our history and true essence. Old cultures are now transformed to align with modern life and trends. Tea says a lot!! Visitors who came to watch us also re enacted their own tea ceremonies. It was fun to watch.

It was a looonnnng day but fun!!!

Just a few of the many guests that visited the Ishiwata residence during my stay. Thanks all for coming, you guys made me feel like a star!!


xv, xvi, xvii & xviii -Mari and I gave a talk about our experiences and work together on the opening of our exhibition at the "Hot Pot", Asahi-Ku, Yokohama, Japan. The show also moved to another venue Yokohama Creative City Centre, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Japan

The guests at the opening of our exhibition.

Mari and me

Koh and me

A big thank you to every one who made my stay a wonderful one. Thank you Akane, Kana, Mr Iwai Shigeaki, to all the wonderful people who made out time to visit us at the Ishiwata residence, Mari and Aya Ishiwata, Mr and Mrs Isiwata (they came everyday to visit us) and of course to Koh Kuroki, a BIG thank you for making all it happen.

Below is my statement on the work I created and the photographs from the previous blog.

Artist Statement

Before now when I think Japan, what goes through my mind is Kimonos, wooden chalets, tea and even samurais with swords. Everything mentioned have become ancient history except for tea which still plays a major role in Japanese life but it has evolved and the process altered with time.
That’s my stereotype on Japan, just as other people have stereotypes of Africa.
Stereotypes are man made creations and illusions hinted and propagated by images from the media so with staged images and pieces of pet bottles, labels and newspaper, I hope to reflect the staged and man made stereotypes that exist from place to place and time to time, the dissemination of culture and the illusion of beauty in this modern age, that is sought after daily in the lives of people here in Japan and quite a similar tale from back home in Nigeria.
This project examines broader issues of relationships between time and space, illusions and reality, legitimacy and authenticity as it relates to media reportage. 
My objective is to hopefully awaken the audience’s ethnographic scrutiny of contemporary life, and consumerism in modern times both in Africa and Japan.

For more on this project and the Homestay programme, please check out these links

My next blog will dance to the tune of UB40's Chery o chery o Limbe!! ( well baby actually)

Also you can now follow me on twitter my handle is @greenpaintbowl.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Yokohama Here I come Part 1- My First Lonnnnnnng Trip!

Mari and me!

Some time last year I was invited to Yokohama Japan to work with artist Mari Ishiwata on a Homestay (guest from Africa ) project by Koh Kuroki, an art director from Japan whom I had met in June of 2011 while he was visiting Nigeria.

For one, I’m really excited about this trip because before now Japan, more specifically Yokohama, is a place I always heard about and I dreamed of visiting someday but I couldn’t have imagined it was so soon!?! So I was really really excited.
When I think Japan I think, Kimonos, wooden chalets, tea and even samurais with swords. That’s my stereotype on Japan, and its farrrrr from  true( except for the tea part) now that I have seen things for myself.

Just arrived and heading to the Ishiwata's residence with Mari!
Right from the first sunrise (even though I slept till about 3pm of the next day) it was activities and visitors all the way. Two weeks is a short time to explore such a great place and at the same time create work but Mari and I are tried our very best.
Before my arrival Mari and I had been communicating by mails and Skype so we were able to create a rough plan of activities and the workshops we wanted to do, since we had a short time. Also on my part I tried to get acquainted with the waste objects that were available which I could use to create an art piece. 

Now Japan recycles a lot so there weren’t many options like I have here in Lagos (if you know what I mean!), so basically pet bottles had to be “it”(even though it is also recycled but it was the easiest thing to collect) because there was so many and in different shapes and sizes, there were also other objects Mari had gotten in the house that they didn’t need anymore which I could also use.

So we kicked off with the photography project we planned, and we had volunteers dress up for the shoot. Even though I have always done photography, this would be my very first time using my camera as a tool to create an art project, it was usually parties, portraits and documentaries so it was really good to be able to direct my art in this direction other than sculptures and mixed media.

This project was based on "stereotypes and identity" using Japanese and African fashion to explore the topic. It was really hilarious getting ready for this shoot.

hmmm!, left or right?

what to do, what to do?!

Here we were two young people clueless about traditional dressing, and struggling to get it right. On my part, I can’t tie a gele( headgear won by women here in Nigeria) I never wear one because I feel its very uncomfortable and its like carrying a burden on my head, but since I was taking some with me to Japan, and I didn’t want to disgrace myself and my dear Africa, I quickly took a crash course from my sister’s friend just a night before my trip. 

It was terrible, and very frustrating, my hands ached  but I settled for two formulas and hoped I would get it right when I got there, after all even if I got it wrong they won’t know the difference(wink *wink*).
As for Mari it was nothing far from my experience, she couldn’t tie a kimono the right way either, she kept reciting the formula with her lips while she tried to wear it. With that I didn’t feel bad about my lack of knowledge on “African”fashion, it was a really hilarious moment, and at that point I started to discover more about my self as a person, an African and as an artist and it was clear that our topic on stereotypes was ideal for this project.

Anyway at last we came to a compromise. In our confusion, we created a cross between iro and buba( traditional attire won by Yoruba women) and the kimono called…..(still on it) somewhat a reflection of our image as young people in this very modern age, from different ends of the planet but sharing many similarities that stem from the influence of technology, western fashion and this era we exist in at present.

hmm! how was it again? Who am I kidding, learn the art of gele tying in one night? yeah right!

Mari the make-up artist

We also adopted the makeup style(the white face and red lipstick) used by traditional geisha women of Japan, as a way of blurring the identity of our models. Then again I see this as a metaphor of how young people like myself and Mari have been stereotyped and the true reflection of who we really are as people and especially as artists has been shaded by what is expected rather than what is. The reality is, we are more alike than we are different, and the traditions and cultures from the past have faded, evolved or are completely lost to the modern society we live in now .

Mari's drawing as a backdrop in the photographs make the images seem surreal, almost like a fantasy (like the tale of Alice in wonderland) a tale that exist only in stories but it’s the reality that exist in today's world. A topic I have slowly started to explore with mannequins.
By the way, the title of our exhibition was titled "An Anonymous Tale".
The images represent illusions of surrealistic events but the objects they hold in their hands are the only real things in the images (each volunteer was asked to bring something they cherished and loved), while all other objects and clothings found in each image are not from their personal possessions. 

The real objects therefore act as channels of escape from this scene of illusions, the stereotyped world I live in today that has been created by people. 
A staged photograph someone called it, truth be told, it was but it is life, and especially in this time I exist where the idea of beauty and character is fake and it is hard to differentiate reality from illusion, and more and more we begin to adopt a staged life.

Some of our lovely guests and volunteers, thanks y'all

Long story short, at the end, the photo project was a success and it was a good start for other things that were to come and I had a great time.
I was really happy to see all these young people come over to see me, and chat with me and be a part of it even though we kinda had a little language problem but it was great still, after all there many other ways to communicate other than just speaking words. 

We got great pictures from the shoot and do find below the final selection which was showed at the closing exhibition. And I must say my geles weren't so bad after all! yehhhhh! A big thank you to Asarin, Wakwak, Naddy, Aya, Caroline, Yota, Chiharu, and Akane.
Join me in some tea drinking from Japan in the story to come, and there's still my P.E.T bottle project as well. Thanks for reading.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Back to Clay Part 2! Complete With Blue!

Back to Clay Part 2!

Complete With Blue!

At last( like wayy last year), I finished my first out door sculpture and it was exciting to work on this project using fibre glass and bold colours, it was great and very challenging. At my last meeting with my client I kinda hoped he would change his mind and settle for another sketch which I had planned to contract to someone else cos I felt it was beyond me, I needed an excuse not to do this job but at the end I'm really proud of myself and I realise that there's so much I could do if only I push myself.

It was tough and at some point I thought I wouldn't meet the deadline. I asked the client for 3 weeks to get this work done, it should take less time but just in case. I have never done an abstract sculpture of this  size before and the closest I ever did was in college which was like 4 years ago and with very different scenarios. For 1 it was a cement cast and 2 it was a seated human figure.


Here I had to deal with the issue of balance and not just visually, lots of calculations were done and I had to get it right. On one hand I couldn't afford to make the sculpture too light because of winds as it was to be situated in an open and slightly windy location and to be placed on a pedestal and I also couldn't make it too heavy for the sake of balance, it had to be jussst right.
Thankfully I had help from a colleague who helped speed things up since we were pressed on time. Nothing good comes easy and so of course we had our share of  hindrances  but it was all worth while.

"Get that camera away from me ...!"

Finishing is the part where I like to give my best both in the clay work, just before casting and on the sculpture just before painting. There was a lot of sanding to do and the joints had to look and feel right, so much so that one couldn't guess where the joints were, now that's a good finish!

Painting was a choking experience as I was using Autobase paint for the first time, its the best option for an outdoor sculpture but also very toxic. With all my gadgets to protect me from the fumes I had to take 5 minutes breaks in between, it was terrible, so it took me 2 days to get the painting done and the night between these two days, I ran to my sister's house to spend the night, there was no way I could sleep at home with all those fumes in the air.



At its final location

At last, at last its over and it was a good 3 weeks experience of hard work and the choking smell of resin and paint, the sculpture came out great with good finishing and no worries about balance, it was jussst right!
I delivered right on schedule and best of all, this sculpture had colours and not the usual brownish bronzey look most sculptures around have.
I'm blessed to be an artist!

Coming up next would be my reportage on my trip to Japan (way past due)!