OOA
OUT OF AFRICA
CONTEMPORARY  ART
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Emeka UDEMBA

 

Biography

Emeka Udemba 1 ModifierEmeka Udemba
Born in 1968 in Enugu, Nigeria
Works and lives in Freiburg, Germany

Seeing is Believing
by Paul Laster  

Captivated by creativity ever since he was a teenager helping his photographer father to hand-colorize his black-and-white pictures, Nigerian artist Emeka Udemba was destined to be an artist.  
Acquiring a broad background in artistic practices while studying art education at the University of Lagos, he landed a solo show with his work at the Goethe Institute shortly after graduating. The exhibition was a success, in that he not only sold his first works of art to local collectors but the cultural center’s director was so taken with his work and disposition that she suggested he move to Germany and helped him settle in Freiburg, a university city in the Black Forest that’s known for its comfortable climate. 
His next big break came when he was invited to exhibit work in a group show about artists from Africa and its diaspora at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. But it was his installation art piece about immigration, which won the French Ambassador’s Prize at the 2002 Dakar Biennale, that set him on his way for further successful shows across Europe, Africa and Latin America. Working with installation art, photography, performance art, video and painting, Udemba soon established a career in Europe and then founded an art space in Lagos to support younger artists.  
In 2013, he started making his signature style portrait paintings with added elements of colorful, transparent collage. Appropriating anonymous images of refugees and impoverished people found on the Internet, Udemba gives prominence to these subjects by portraying their inner beauty while surrounding them with swirls of colored papers and mediated information that’s usually used to define them.  
“It’s not about creating realistic portraits of my subjects,” the artist shared by phone from his Freiburg studio. “I view my paintings more as constructions, where I employ print material to make the viewer go beyond just looking at the person in the painting. I want the viewer to see the information swirling around us so that they can understand how it impacts the way we define other people.”  
Realism is secondary in his constructions. His work is more investigative; it’s more about the questioning of identity. He’s creating a psychological situation, in which fragments are consciously placed, particularly around mouths and ears—as though he’s exclaiming that much is being said and heard on a daily basis, but that you have to discern what is meaningful.  
Udemba’s ennobled figures, such as the two boys depicted in the 2019 painting Translation 2, seem distanced or removed from reality. The artist has envisioned them in a floating space, where there is no discrimination. He’s interested in the idea of an endless space—a borderless space that’s not defined by where you belong by outside forces. They are free to occupy a space in which they can be who they want to be, as the female figure daringly does in his 2020 painting Angel.  
“My figures are in a space that has no demarcation,” Udemba added during the phone conversation. “They have all of these pieces of paper with information floating around them. It’s a space for speculation. It’s full of ideas that can be seized. The figures are free to think what they want to think. They inhabit spaces that have little or no constraints.”  
Beyond the humanist ideology conveyed in the work, Udemba’s paintings are also fascinating in the highly inventive way in which they are made. The artist begins each painting by covering the canvas with layers of newsprint to give it texture, but instead of applying the paint with brushes he uses pieces of recycled plastic that he cuts to size to make a desired mark. A thin piece of plastic is used to outline the figures, while larger bits of plastic are used like a palette knife to lay down bands of transparent color.  
Once the figures are set on the canvas, he covers them with thin pieces of colored paper (some that he has painted himself to get the palette that he wants) and slices of random texts culled from newspapers, brochures and advertisements that he picks up during his travels. Veiled in a blizzard of information, his people are nearly invisible, which is the plight of the immigrant, who can seem invisible to some even as they try to sometimes make themselves invisible to all in order to avoid trouble.  
His 2019 painting Maverick No. 1, which captures the bust of a compelling black man in a storm of colors and facts, could be seen as a surrogate self-portrait. Universally speaking to the immigrant experience, it depicts a non-conformist—a man who wants to be himself rather than seeing himself through the eyes of others. He’s a man who sees beauty as humanity, as treating people with dignity.  
“I want my work to create a space for education, for enlightenment, for discussion,” Udemba further stated from Freiburg. “If my work can stimulate conversations about how we relate to one another, I’d see it as a success.”

Paul Laster
New York Desk Editor|ArtAsiaPacific
Contributing Editor|Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art
Writer|Time Out New York|Galerie|Art & Object|Sculpture|Cultured|Harper's Bazaar Arabia|Architectural
Digest|Surface|Garage|ConceptualFineArts  


Read more about his biography

 Emeka Udemba is graduated with a degree in art from the University of Lagos, Nigeria in 1991, and runs a vibrant art studio in Freiburg, Germany. Through his painting, photography, video, installations and performances, Udemba explores the intersection of images and structures as a means of gaining deeper insight into how identity and culture affect our sense of collective consciousness. Udemba’s works investigate imaginary worlds and rethink the boundaries of the archetypal.
Udemba has exhibited in Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Austria, Italy, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria, Indonesia and Taiwan. His works have been celebrated internationally, including at the 11th Mercosu Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil and the 13th Dak’Art Biennale Senegal (2018), Osmosis Festival, Taipei, Taiwan (2017), Mediations Biennale, Poland (2016) and at the Jogha Biennale, Indones. Udemba has curated important international art projects and received Special Mention for the Best Art Practices Award for young curators, for the project Lagos Open, in Bolzano, Italy (2007). Udemba’s works investigate imaginary worlds and rethink the boundaries of the archetypal. Udemba has exhibited in Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Austria, Italy, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria, Indonesia and Taiwan. His works have been celebrated internationally, including at the 11th Mercosu Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil and the 13th Dak’Art Biennale Senegal (2018), Osmosis Festival, Taipei, Taiwan (2017), Mediations Biennale, Poland (2016) and at the Jogha Biennale, Indones.  “Often people of color like me who live outside of our native countries are always confronted with questions of legibility, illegibility and stereotypes. As migrants we are thrust into the position of the alien, ‘the other’. My works reflect on the construction of subjectivity of ‘the other’ and how this is influenced by information around us. They embody my ongoing exploration with painting, photography, performance, video and installation to address issues of my own identity and a sense of place in the world. While moving between realities, my works explore the theme ‘identity’ in an expansive form to interrogate issues of geographical, cultural and social belonging.
Through my paintings, I channel the vibrancy of hybrid cultures and relativity through snippets of published media worked randomly into compositions that reference layers of meanings, race, gender, history, memory, time and beauty.
They are like calculated accidents, interacting between colors, transparencies, words and textures which outcomes are sometimes better or worse than I foresee. In these works a sense of dislocation, adaptation, possibilities and manipulation of information come through.”
Relying on appropriated form, published materials such as newspapers, books and photographs; Emeka Udemba explores visual representation and subjectivity in relation to history and personal narrative. He addresses the way information is filtered through the mechanisms that define the construction and representation of identity. His paintings vibrate with layers of information and movement, allowing planned structures and chance encounters to come together into an unapologetically beautiful critical art.

Solo Shows

2000 Galerie Hilt, Basel, Switzerland
2003 Goethe Institut Lagos, Nigeria
2005 Förderkreis zeitgenossischer Kunst, Euskirchen, Germany

2006 In den Raum gestellt, Künsthaus L6, Freiburg, Germany
2008 “Kings”, Galerie Erata, Leipzig, Germany
2011 “Closed space” Neukölln-Berlin/ Hillbrow-Johannesburg, GoetheonMain, Johannesburg and Kunsthaus I6 Freiburg, Germany
2015 “Tools of conflict” Art house, Lagos, Nigeria
2016 `”Telling stories” Galerie im AltenWiehrebahnhof, Freiburg, Germany, Seeing and Being
seen, Galerie Menzel, Kenzingen, Germany
2019 “A Question of Being” Temple
2020 “Aliens”, OOA Gallery, Barcelona, Spain

Group shows

2000
Heimat Kunst, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany
Project Queich, Landau, Germany
Expo 2000, Hannover, Germany
Kunsthalle Gundlingen, Basel, Switzerland

2001
Kunsthalle Gundlingen, Stuttgart, Germany
Utopias and Realites, Osorio, Spain

2002
National Museum Onikan, Lagos, Nigeria
Dakar Biennale, Senegal
Arts, Electronica, Linz, Austria

2003
Video Recycling Festival, Berlin, Germany
Visa, ifa Galerie Bonn, Germany
Ifa Galerie Stuttgart, Germany
L`Europa fantome, Brüssels, Belgium
Africa for Africa, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Galerie Barnoud, Dijon, France
Photo Biennale, Bamako, Mali
Havana Biennale, Cuba

2004
Espacio C, Camago, Spain
Kornhaus Forum, Bern, Switzerland
Rendezvous, Cite des arts, Paris, France
Photography, national de Nantes, France
World meeting of artists and intellectuals, Caracas, Venezuela

2005
Über Schönheit, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany
Galerie im Wiehrebanhof, Freiburg, Germany
4 Photographers, niavaran cultural centre, Teheran, Iran
Final cut, Palais de Tokyo Paris, France
Instituto Nazional per la Grafica, Rome, Italy
Lagos Open, Lagos, Nigeria

2006
3 contemporary video artists from Africa, Athens, Greece
Here and There, La casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain
Cite International des Arts, Paris, France
Musee des Arts derniers Paris, France
Espacio C Camago, Spain
iaab choices, Kunst Raum Riehen\Basel, Switzerland
Black Paris, Iwalewa-haus, Bayreuth, Germany
Out of Africa, Cite des arts, Paris, France

2007
Museum of world cultures Frankfurt (Black Paris), Germany
Welde Photo kunnstpreis Heidelberg, Germany
Alphabetical, Gallery Barnoud, Dijon, France
Africa 3x3 plural, Casa Africa Las Palmas, Spain
Regional 8, Kulture Fabrik, Hegenheim, Switzerland
Paris black, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Belgium

2008
“Off limit”, Dakar biennale (off), Senegal
“Suburbia”, Galerie im Tor Emmendingen, Germany
„Real Spaces“Villa Merkel/Bahnwärterhaus Esslingen, Germany
Slick art fair Paris, France
„Lagos“Ewerk, Freiburg, Germany
„Waiting for Ypudu“, Galerie Barnoud, Dijon, France

2009
“Signs” 14-1 Gallery, Germany
Urban Scenography project, Johannesburg, South Africa
Johannesburg art fair, South Africa

2010
FESMA, Dakar, Senegal
“Walking the city” Drillhall , Johannesburg, South Africa
“Exchanging space”, Project Space, Badore, Lagos
ARTension, Savvy Berlin, Germany

2011
“7 Days”, video project, Berlin, Germany
“Wide Angle” project, Goethe Institut Johannesburg, South Africa
Retour Paris, Institut français de Stuttgart, Germany
Small is beautiful, Galerie Barnoud, Dijon, France

2012
Black Europe body politics, Ballhaus, Berlin, Germany
Emergency Exit, Bag factory, Johannesburg, South Africa
Black Germany, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany
Lagos live Festival, Nigeria

2013
Habitus, Galerie Barnoud Dijon, France
Wahala, Entrepo 9, Dijon, France, Savvy contemporary, Berlin, Germany
Project ‘Ajegunle Invitation’, Lagos, Nigeria
‘Ein Haus für Junkman’ , Ewerk, Freiburg, Germany

2014
'Witness' MMMoCA Lagos, Nigeria
Franfurt Bookmesse, Franfurt, Germany
Afropean mimicry and mockery, Künstlerhaus Mousonturm Frankfurt, Germany
Galerie Barnoud, Dijon, France

2015
'Transmission' Project space Lagos. Nigeria
Jogja Biennale

2016
Vidoenale, CCA Lagos, Goethe Institut Lagos, Nigeria
MMMoCA Road project, Lagos-Dakar Senegal
Ostrale’016, Dresden, Germany
Mediations Biennale, Poland
Urban Touch, Kunsthalle Faust, Hannover, Germany

2017
`Hotspots project` Goethe Institut Lagos, Nigeria
`Hotspots project` Saracura Art Space, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
`Vanishing voices project` Goethe Institut, Lagos, Nigeria
`Wanderlust`, SMO Contemporary art, Lagos, Nigeria
Osmosis festival, Taipei, Taiwan

2018
‘Looking for change’. Kunstverine KISS in Schloss Untergroeningen, Germany
11th Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil
13th Dak’art biennale, Senegal
‘Rustling Hope’ MMOCA Lagos, Nigeria

2019
„Shop“ Kunsthaus L6 Freiburg, Germany
 

Available artworks

 

. Emeka Udemba - Companion nº 5 - 2019 - 140cm H x 110cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-Emeka-Udemba-Companion-No5-149-cm-x-120-cm.2019.-Mixed-media-on-canvas---2_900x700.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Maverick nº 1 - 2019 - 198cm H x 129cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-Emeka-Udemba-Maverick-No1-2019--Mixed-media-on-canvas-200cm-x-130cm_900x700.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Interpritation nº 16 - 2020 - 150cm H x 105cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-3-Emeka-Udemba--Interpritation-No16-2020-152cm-x-106-cm-mixed-media-on-canvas-(2)_900x700.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - In transit - 2020 - 200cm H x 130cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-4 OOA GALLERY - EMEKA UDEMBA - IN TRANSIT_900x700.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - A perfect stranger - 2020 - 140cm H x 110cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-5.-OOA-GALLERY---EMEKA-UDEMBA_900x700.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Beloved - 2020 - 200cm H x 140cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-8 OOA GALLERY - EMEKA UDEMBA - BELOVED_900x700.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Heartbeat 2 - 2020 - 152cm H x 106cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-9 OOA GALLERY - EMEKA UDEMBA - HEARTBEAT 2 -_900x700.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Wanderlust - 2020 - 140cm H x 110cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-10 OOA GALLERY - EMEKA UDEMBA - WANDERLUST_900x700.jpg

 

All artworks

 

. Emeka Udemba - Wanderlust - 2020 - 140cm H x 110cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-10 OOA GALLERY - EMEKA UDEMBA - WANDERLUST_600x600.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Heartbeat 2 - 2020 - 152cm H x 106cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-9 OOA GALLERY - EMEKA UDEMBA - HEARTBEAT 2 -_600x600.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Beloved - 2020 - 200cm H x 140cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-8 OOA GALLERY - EMEKA UDEMBA - BELOVED_600x600.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - A perfect stranger - 2020 - 140cm H x 110cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-5.-OOA-GALLERY---EMEKA-UDEMBA_600x600.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - In transit - 2020 - 200cm H x 130cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-4 OOA GALLERY - EMEKA UDEMBA - IN TRANSIT_600x600.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Interpritation nº 16 - 2020 - 150cm H x 105cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-3-Emeka-Udemba--Interpritation-No16-2020-152cm-x-106-cm-mixed-media-on-canvas-(2)_600x600.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Translation nº 2 - 2019 - 110cm H x 138cm W - Mixed media on canvas - SOLD - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-Emeka-Udemba-Translation-No2-120cm-x-140cm.2019.-Mixed-media-on-canvas_600x600.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Maverick nº 1 - 2019 - 198cm H x 129cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-Emeka-Udemba-Maverick-No1-2019--Mixed-media-on-canvas-200cm-x-130cm_600x600.jpg
. Emeka Udemba - Companion nº 5 - 2019 - 140cm H x 110cm W - Mixed media on canvas - Contact for price - INFO
INFO images/stories/virtuemart/product/resized/bande-blanche-Emeka-Udemba-Companion-No5-149-cm-x-120-cm.2019.-Mixed-media-on-canvas---2_600x600.jpg

 


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