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Ovie 1st Kings Iruru showcases Africa's experimental art

THOUGHT-PROVOKING: The Ovie 1st Kings Iruru exhibition includes Maiden Dancers

ONE OF the most striking things about Ovie 1st Kings Iruru’s exhibition is that overwhelming feeling of connecting with the African homeland.

He brings the continent off the canvas and into our hearts in such a unique way that it is incomparable to the work of any other artist.

Currently showcasing his work at the Chuck Gallery in Manchester, Ovie, who was born and raised in Nigeria, is a recent graduate of the University of Salford, where he studied visual arts.

His experimental artwork combines metals, discs, Perspex, wood and resin to form striking, colourful, pieces. Largely influenced by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian and his use of squares, lines and rectangles, Ovie’s work is much less abstract, but instead paints a picture of his early upbringing in Africa and the contrasting contemporary West.

For those who find the austere reverence of art galleries to be quite intimidating, this exhibition is a welcome breath of fresh air and a revelation of our rich cultural and historic background, telling stories about social issues and cultural identity that Ovie is only too happy to share.

“I grew up in the village of Ekpan and the first time I went to the city of Lagos I was mesmerised by the beauty and the buildings. I always wondered what was happening inside and thought about the straight lines, measuring them against each other.

“This influenced my drawings right from the beginning of time.” One would also assume that both of his artistic parents also had some influence on his creativity.

His father is a photographer and would often show Ovie his craft in the darkroom and he would utilise his seamstress mother’s beads to create different textures on his paintings.

Most of his works feature women and that is a result of the strong, positive imprint left by his mother.

“I use women to relate my story and one of the principle reasons for this is that I am close to my mum and she is someone who approaches life with force to make things happen.

“I have a respect for women.

“They make sacrifices for their families, more so than men, and are much more committed.

“This must be the reason why God chose women to bring life. I use images of women to represent the story I want to tell.”

In fact, one of the most thought-provoking exhibits is Land of Beauty, which explores themes of Mother Africa and its gradual destruction at the hands of the military.

The massive sun represents the tropics, overshadowed by the gloominess of the surrounding greys.

Chuck Gallery is the first private art space in North West England dedicated to the promotion of contemporary African art.

Owner Chukwudi Onwudiwe was excited about bringing Ovie’s collection to the gallery: “You can see his creative training ensconced in his art.

“He innovatively searches for materials, which gives interest, context and vitality to his work.

“That is something that will appeal to my audience. They are informed and discerning and understand what contemporary art is all about and they want to engage and interact with artists.”

At the age of 54, Ovie is well travelled and among other places has taken his art to Italy and Germany, but now has his sights set on New York and its complex skylines.

Soaring high, he’d like to exhibit one day at the Tate Gallery.

Certainly, when he breaks from his travels around the world, the world needs to see the work of Ovie 1st Kings Iruru.

For details about the exhibition, visit

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