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CHIDI KWUBIRI - The Fine Artist

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Vibrant colors expertly mixed with mastered brush techniques to form structural symbiosis. At first glance, the structures appear to be plain to the viewer. But getting nearer, the viewer would be captivated by micro elevations, dots, circles, ovals, right angles, triangles, and other more or less geometrical shapes artistically merged with faces or masks to create unique art works on canvas. The artist that creates these fantastic blends of abstract and naturalistic works is Chidi Kwubiri, a Nigerian based in Germany. Afritopic visited the Artist at his home in Pulheim while he was preparing for his next exhibition and was flabbergasted.
 
Chidi has been drawing and painting since his childhood in Umahia, Southeastern Nigeria. All he wanted to be is a fine artist. At school, he devoted his time and energy to learning the basic principles of perspective, still life and figurative drawings. While being influenced by some of the renowned Nigerian fine artists, he systematically developed his own style. In Umuahia, the young artist was becoming popular. However, it was not until Chidi came to Germany that he realized how much art works are being appreciated.
He decided to study fine arts and optioned for one of the best fine arts universities in Germany, the Arts Academy of Duesseldorf. According to Chidi, 'It is very tough to gain admission to the academy. The fine arts department receives hundreds of applications with portfolios of art works each year. Through rigorous selection processes, less than 40 highly talented students are finally admitted'. Chidi was of course selected in 1993 to study in the class of late Prof. Michael Buthe and Prof. A.R. Penck. The fine arts class was multicultural. Apart from German students, there were students from other parts of the world including Asia and the Caribbean.
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Chidi Kwubiri
 
Chidi was highly motivated. He experimented with diverse materials and painting techniques including the European styles but never neglected his focus on African impressions. He combined his natural talent, hard work and love of fine arts to stand out from the rest of very good students and earn the title 'Meisterschueler' (exceptional student) of Prof. A.R. Penck in 1998. Chidi started participating in exhibitions as a student and by May 1996, he has won four arts prizes including three 1st Prizes. Art galleries started taking notice of him and articles about his paintings were published in the local newspapers. Chidi took on commissioned works including one by the Nigerian embassy in Germany.
 
By the time he completed his studies in 2002, Chidi had already displayed his art works in over 30 exhibitions in Europe and the US and secured his place in the German arts scene. In cooperation with galleries, he is now building up his image within the international fine artists' community as a prolific, creative and exceptionally talented fine artist of African descent.
 
For those of us interested in arts and the arts critiques, there is usually the tendency to analyze works of art. In Chidi's paintings, the pure bright colors reminds of the colourful traditional attires and the blue sky ever present in most parts of Africa. The faces or masks are characteristically found in every part of Nigeria, particularly in Western and Southeastern Nigeria. The masks in Chidi's paintings seem to relate closely to some of the numerous masks used by the Igbo people for ceremonies, festivities and diverse rituals.
The elongated heads of the masks are in many cases embedded with elaborate fine designs. In some cases the designs are reduced to minimum. The elongated heads with elaborate designs could be imagined to depict African women with decorated hairstyles. Hairstyling has always been a focal point of beauty especially for women in almost all parts of Africa. In the early days, African women molded their hair into beautiful shapes using fat, oil or clay.
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The hair was then decorated with ornaments made from natural materials. This tradition is part of the African cultural lifestyle. In recent times, refined products have replaced fat, oil and clay and diverse materials are available as ornaments. The elongated heads with little or no design could depict African men wearing typical headgears. Depending on the status of the person, the ornamental works integrated into the headgear range from sophisticated to simple. In Chidi's paintings, the combination of radiant colors, masks and complex structural effects with brush strokes creates such a dynamic that the viewer is taken in trance to the middle of a festival in Africa. The viewer starts hearing drumbeats and feeling the heat. Athletic figures wearing masks emerge dancing eclectically to the electrifying rhythm. Then, beautiful women appear in graceful steps displaying their ornamented hairstyles. The viewer is mesmerized but fully aware of the magical scene.
 
Elements of African culture could be extracted from all Chidi's art works. In some of his works, the abstract objects are more or less arranged in a circle or semi-circle around a central figure. One could imagine an elderly person narrating fairy tale to children and the young ones. This is a common tradition in Africa, particularly in the villages and rural areas. The local history, stories, fairy tales, wisdom, ritual procedures and guidelines are passed on to the next generation by word of mouth. In the evenings, children and youngsters gather around an elderly person, who is a talented narrator and has a good knowledge of the stories and traditions. In most cases, the stories aim to teach the differences between good and bad as well as promote social competences. The paintings seem to communicate this tradition in an abstract but form. But the the viewer is left with his/her own imagination.
Another painting shows a figure in an upright sitting position holding a stock. The posture indicates a man in a relatively powerful position. In the context of African village environment, the figure may represent a family man that is respected in the village and whose advice is sought after. The painting thus presents organizational hierarchy aspect of a village community or the position of a man within the family.
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The Art Works>
 
 
A couple of the figurative paintings show a person with both hands covering the face or over the head. In Africa, this posture generally depicts a person in sorrow or somebody that has just experienced a sorrowful incident. The paintings could be interpreted as pointers to the sadness and agony of the deprived on the continent. The expressions on the faces capture the transition from lively human to the masked spirits in the world of agony. In these paintings, Chidi brilliantly apply brush and spatula techniques to create sculptural effects.
Many fine artist of world acclaim initially start drawing and painting in naturalistic styles before developing their own styles. Chidi proves his talent as a fine artist beyond every doubt in his painting of a girl leaning on the wall. Comparing this earlier painting to the recent abstract ones, one could see how Chidi has evolved from naturalistic to abstract and expressionistic styles. He has combined the basic components of European painting styles, the elements of African tradition and his own unique talent to create art works that could compete with the best on the international modern arts collectors market.
 
Chidi does not constrain himself to pure painting. He uses diverse unconventional materials to create abstract collages. He is constantly looking for methods to create innovative works of art. And he never relents in his efforts. While most artists participate in an average of 2 exhibitions in a year, Chidi takes part in an average of 5 exhibitions per year. In each exhibition, he presents new works of high imagination. The art works are composed in ways that allow for individual opinions and interpretations. The viewer becomes curious and willing to initiate dialog with fellow arts lovers or with the artist. This impact on the viewer finally proves that Chidi's art works are indisputably of high quality and at least interesting as well as worth debating.
Afritopic 2004
 
 
 

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