East of Here by Emmanuel Osahor

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

Artist’s Biography

Emmanuel Osahor graduated in 2015 with BFA in Art and Design from the University of Alberta. His work has been a subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions at the SNAP Gallery, Art Gallery at Milner – Edmonton Public Library, THE WORKS – International Festival of Art and Design, FAB Gallery, and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, to name just a few. In 2017, Emmanuel Osahor received the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers RISE Award in Arts and Culture. With the assistance of the grants from Edmonton Arts Council, Osahor has embarked on extensive research for his several projects, including “The Distance Between Us”, “You Are Here”, “And Then My Hands Shook”, “Fractures”, ”My Journey”, and “Green Pastures”. These projects – some were collaborative ventures – discuss a broad range of topics, including: aspects of humankind at the beginning of the 21st Century, the nature of dual existence in contemporary society, the human relationship to the past, the role of memory in this experience, immigration, degradation of the communities, the nature of violence in contemporary society, homelessness, and fragility of eco system, among other aspects. These projects use the powerful tool of artistic expression to reflect the artist’s concerns and to document critical aspects of the human condition at this pivotal moment in the history of humankind. Osahor’s large scale installation, “In Search of Eden” was presented during 2018 THE WORKS International Festival of Arts and Design in Edmonton. His other multi-media installation, “Paradise and Folly” was featured in the 2018 Nuit Blanche Edmonton.


Emmanuel Osahor and Harcourt House Artist Run Centre would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.