The second installment of the two-part Meditation on Death and the Afterlife, contemporary Nigerian artist Ameh Egwuh, opened on the penultimate Sunday at the Rele Arts Gallery, Lagos. While the first part, held in Los Angeles, dialogued with mortality and transcendence, the works of “Fantasies of the Other Side” offer imaginative considerations on the afterlife. Here Egwuh creates surreal landscapes and new realms, from lush greens to sand dunes, showcasing vivid otherworldly scenes filled with metaphorical images and expressionless figures.
The works presented in this exhibition offer a glimpse of the artist’s engagement in the creation of the world through the juxtaposition of various elements. The works were born out of his curiosity about what happens when people die. The artist recalls what it means for the living to be connected or disconnected from the dead.
“I think what connects you to someone you’ve lost is the love you have for them. Even if the person is a member of your family, if there is no love, there is hardly any connection between you and that person. So when the person finally leaves the world, they don’t feel like a part of you is gone. The apple in this work symbolizes love, ” he said, pointing to the apples used as an installation.
The collection’s apple motif amplifies the theme of love, ”he said. A graduate of Delta State University, Abraka, Egwu began his career as a full-time studio artist in 2017. After a creative boot camp at the Rele Art Gallery, he began to develop his works. The whole idea of this exhibition, he says, is to eliminate the idea that the afterlife is dark. “I don’t want to have a dark experience in the afterlife. I want the hereafter to be happy. This is why every painting you see here is brilliant. When you walk into this space, you don’t feel like you’ve come to see paintings that speak of death. The idea of the show is to eliminate that fear, ”he said.
Egwuh’s paintings feature illogical and surreal scenes giving his works a dreamlike but decidedly materialistic feel. The folds of the fabrics, the contours of the hills and the vivid blue of the water serve to create an environment that is both familiar and distant. In ‘Fantasies of the Other Side’, Egwuh imagines new worlds rooted in varied beliefs of the afterlife across multiple cultures. Exploring ideas of reincarnation, ancestral veneration and nothingness, the works fictionalize the unknown, creating a hybrid space of memory and continuity. With this exhibition, he shifts the conversation beyond initial considerations of mortality, to transcendence and subsequent immortality. His exploration of the afterlife imagines it not as a place or a singular story but as a place of memory.
A place that continues the story, even after death. Egwuh’s use of color and spatial composition places his characters in serene and fantastical spaces echoing his belief in the hereafter as “happy space”. The characters are presented in relaxed poses lost in the immediacy of the moment and although draped in outfits ranging from contemporary to traditional, they present hardly any clue to their identity, but remain unmistakably present. The artist’s reference to family photographs also founds the work in the intimate.
An act of memory and veneration. With this exhibition, Egwuh takes the viewer into a collective performance of remembering and preserving memory. A place to dream and recognize what came before. Fantasies of the Other Side dialogues with the unknown and the familiar, presenting shifting but unified perspectives on continuity.
The series “Fantasies of the Other Side” imagines new worlds rooted in various beliefs of the afterlife across several cultures. Exploring ideas of reincarnation, ancestral veneration and nothingness among others, he fictionalizes the unknown, creating a hybrid space of memory and continuity.
Here, the artist shifts the conversation beyond its initial considerations on mortality, towards transcendence and subsequent immortality. His exploration of the afterlife imagines it not as a place or a singular story but as a place of memory. A place that continues the story, even after death. Fantasies of the Other Side dialogues with the unknown and the familiar, presenting shifting but unified perspectives on continuity. The works on display, which were largely completed this year, include: “Communion of Ancestors”, “Infinite Rest 1 & 11”, “Still With You” and “Absolute Peace and Quietness”. The exhibition runs until November 27.
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