EAST OF HERE by Emmanuel Osahor
The Art Incubator Gallery . January 11 – February 23, 2019
Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, from 7 pm – 10 pm
Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 St, Edmonton
Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What are we waiting for? What awaits us?
– Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope. 1959.
Penned over 50 years ago, the above questions resonate in my practice with resounding pertinence. My practice currently explores the complexities within the concepts of hope and the Utopia through the languages of painting and photography.
Over the years, it has become clear to me that what I expected when I emigrated from Nigeria to Canada, was a utopia. Ignorant of Canada’s similar colonial legacy, and the consistent mirage of capitalist visions of paradise, I put Canada on a pedestal, since it was labelled developed while Nigeria was labelled developing. After witnessing the realities in both countries, I have come to understand that, even as utopic visions of development are created and pursued across the world, many times, for marginalized communities, primary basic human needs like shelter, food, and healthcare are neglected. What keeps humans going in light of this? Why and in what ways do we create individual oases of hope in our societies? These are the questions that drive my practice.
My interest in this is due to the fluid nature of hope and utopias. Although constant in every generation, the meanings and physical manifestations of these ideas are constantly shifting. The utopia hoped for yesterday, is seen as a dystopia today, or simply forgotten as reality takes precedence. Thus, my practice examines moments in contemporary society that reflects this persistent search. Through my work, I aim to question attempts at utopia, revealing the inherent tensions between hope and failure within these attempts.
Formally, I have been exploring these questions by investigating constructed natural environments that mirror an edenic tendency to create sanctuary like spaces within nature. My photographs function as seemingly objective documentations of these constructed spaces, while the paintings shift into poetic interpretations that reveal the tensions in utopic hope through the interplay of concrete and abstract forms.
– Emmanuel Osahor