SUBLIME: Between Solid and Vapour: Group Exhibition

Rele gallery is pleased to present Sublime: Between Solid and Vapor, a group exhibition by contemporary African artists whose works exist in the space between abstract and representational art: Paul Onditi, Phoebe Boswell, Austin Uzor, Etinosa Yvonne, Michael Igwe and Talut Kareem. The exhibition explores a constant, evolving state of transition and dialogue with liminality. The word ‘sublime’ has several definitions; on the one hand, it refers to a transition process from solid to vapor and on the other, refers to an elevation of thought and expression to a state of great excellence or beauty. These two definitions, in both process and outcome, are the primary focus of the exhibition.


Exploring themes around identity, nostalgia, movement and migration, the exhibition considers the liminal journey between what is and is yet to be and takes a critical look at how identity is negotiated and redefined in our constant engagement with the unfamiliar. Sublime: Between Solid and Vapor not only dialogues with ideas of uncertainty and transition but also considers the physical and visceral effects of the sublime in art and its attendant possibilities for the transformation of self.


Paul Onditi’s paintings explore contemporary global issues through the use of highly experimental, labour-intensive techniques. Film strips, prints, transferred images, pared-down layers of pigment, caustic acid and thin layers of oil paint are patched together in meticulous ways to visualize an imaginative world. His works highlight global issues connecting us all: pollution, climate change, natural unrest and loss of resources.


Phoebe Boswell’s moving-image installation Ythlaf — a literal translation of “water-relic'” in Old English from yth (wave, water, billow) and laf (remnant, relic) which loosely translates as the stretch of shore or beach revealed when a wave ebbs; the contested & mobile space that is neither quite land nor quite sea  evokes the remedial power of water to buoy the spirit, to heal and to suture while considering how inconsequential the gravity of personal narrative is when contextualised within the immense expansiveness of nature. Complemented with The Space Between Things, a looped soundscape of spoken word poetry written by the artist during an intense period of recuperation, her installation situates the body between two immense and constantly moving worlds, exploring its constant negotiation and movement between spaces.


Drawing from his current status as an immigrant in the United States of America, Autin Uzor’s vibrant paintings populated with loosely detailed figures, focus on themes around migration and displacement. Exploring the journey of migrants from the African continent through the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, his works considers the politics of conflict in the Sub-Saharan regions and its ripple effect and contribution towards human displacement.


Etinosa Yvonne’s ‘It’s All In My Head’ series explores the coping mechanisms of survivors of terrorism and violent conflict. Created within the context of increased terrorism and violent conflicts in modern-day Nigeria, her emotive portraits done in monochromatic tones consider the ways the survivors of these conflicts, now displaced, rebuild and adjust to their new lives while also questioning how effective ‘moving on’ is in a society devoid of proper emotional, economic and psychosocial support.

Exploring the interaction between traditional painting medium and alternative material, Michael Igwe’s paintings employ the fluidity of form in engaging the grotesque, seamless and the unsteady nature of human experience and memory. His work explores themes of identity, time, psychology, and displacement in examining how human behaviour is influenced by notions of culture, love, power and religion. Done mostly in grey, tan colours, his expressive, disembodied faces represent a constant state of becoming and re-negotiation of identity and being.


Talut Kareem’s charcoal drawings occupy a space between reality, fantasy and exploring the transitory, fragile and ephemeral nature of the human mind in its reconciliation of the body as self and other. His expressive, blurry figures seem in a perpetual state of movement identifying “the subject as a wanderer in search of true identity”.

 In the wake of the global pandemic, as the world slowly reopens and with the advent of several social justice movements shedding light on often ignored issues in contemporary society both in Nigeria and other parts of the world, Sublime: Between Solid and Vapor invites the viewer to confront both individually and collectively these uncertain times and open up interpersonal dialogues on the inevitable changes and opportunities for growth that follow.