Uzo Egonu

Northern Nigerian Landscape

1964

Not on display

Artist
Uzo Egonu 1931–1996
Medium
Oil paint on hardboard
Dimensions
Support: 966 × 1528 mm
frame: 1029 × 1596 × 53 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Hiltrud Egonu 2014
Reference
T13898

Summary

Northern Nigerian Landscape 1964 is an oil painting on board, painted in London, that dates from the early period of Nigerian-born artist Uzo Egonu’s career. During the early 1960s Egonu made a number of works, such as this one, which combined a modernist approach to painting with his childhood memories and a nostalgia for Nigeria through references to the Nigerian landscape, vernacular architecture and local traditions. This painting is an abstracted rendition of a northern Nigerian village. The perspective has been flattened and the rounded huts stacked on top of each other are outlined with black. Winding lines that could variously represent the limbs of a tree, paths or rivers divide the painting into distinct parts that are then filled in with decorative designs. Overall the palette is subdued and the shades of brown, olive green, ochre and cobalt blue recall the natural environment.

Egonu settled in Britain in the 1940s and studied fine art, design and typography at the Camberwell School of Arts in London from 1949–52. Although he lived out his life in England as an expatriate and only returned to Nigeria once for a brief visit, he maintained ties to Africa, combining Igbo imagery with his modernist training, and responding to events in Nigeria, such as the Biafran War (1967–70), in works such as Woman in Grief 1968 (Tate T13897). He also participated in the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal in 1966 and the Second World Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. In paintings like Northern Nigerian Landscape Egonu synthesised his formative years growing up in Nigeria with his academic training in European modernism. He belonged to a generation of non-European artists who chose to live and work in London, but nevertheless struggled to receive institutional recognition for their contribution to the modernist discourse. As such, his work was featured in the landmark exhibition The Other Story, curated by the artist Rasheed Araeen (born 1935) at the Hayward Gallery in London in 1989, alongside other Black and Minority Ethnic artists including Egonu’s long-term friend, Ronald Moody (1900–1984).

Further reading
Olu Oguibe, Uzo Egonu, An African Artist in the West, London 1995.
Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, ‘Review of Oguibe, Olu, Uzo Egonu, An African Artist in the West,’ H-AfrArts, H-Net Reviews, February 1997, http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=838, accessed August 2013.

Kerryn Greenberg
August 2013

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