Johnson Uwadinma has featured in several group exhibitions, but has held two solo shows that are classified by their themes. In November, 2013 he worked on the theme, Aphorism which basically illustrates and gives visual representation to statements of truth some of which “assume political dimension while others reflect on social, economic, religious, proverbial and spiritual didacticism”. The exhibition held at Mydrim Gallery, Lagos, with 80 pieces of art in the corpus. His second solo display at the Boys Qurters Project Space in 2014/2015 was titled Erasure. This body of work dealt on memory and our problem with keeping knowledge of history. Uwadimma’s artistry is based on the philosophy that a decent existence of morality and truth, and a sense of history shape the viability of society. He has indeed demonstrated this from one body of work to another. The Port Harcourt based artist seeks to re-echo the weight of virtue over vices and has keyed his belief into the narrative of other artist; he is a founding member of Mangrove Artists, a group that preoccupies itself with the discourse of living in the Niger Delta.
The group held its maiden exhibition titled “Views: Tales of the Mangrove Artists”. The exhibition was a response to militancy which was prevalent at the time as well as consequences of oil exploration and exploitation. His works tells a lot about memory and the prevarication of truth as the profound problem of humanity. More so, his art pieces are a reflection of ideals based on morality and truth. Some of the clichéd dictums that become the titles of paintings in Aphorism are truthful sayings that are common or can easily be traced to quotations of writers or from the bible.
Uwadinma analyses that there is a need to re-echo the relevance of truth which is gradually giving way to vices that are threats to humanity. Thus, giving them a visual image will sell the message. Aphorism has, for instance, works entitled: Crossroads are Opportunity, Silence is Consent, Life is a Skill of Balance, To err is Human, the World is a Village, Wisdom is better than Silver and Gold, etc. these are very familiar truisms Uwadinma transposed by titling his paintings. It significantly features an exciting tessellation of acrylics, oil and water colours on canvas. He makes use of distinct colours to create peculiar images and differentiate objects in his design. A piece worthy of note is Same old news; the background is prepared with sprinkles of unidentifiable colours, while an image of one sitting and reading a newspaper is formed with clearly distinguished bright colours. The malleable nature of acrylics enables him to create outlines and make impressions that leave his paintings with detail. Oil and water colour are his basic materials, while his experimentation also extend to paper, wood, and metal. In Erasure, Uwadinma’s concern was about memory, the role it plays in
A piece worthy of note is Same old news; the background is prepared with sprinkles of unidentifiable colours, while an image of one sitting and reading a newspaper is formed with clearly distinguished bright colours. The malleable nature of acrylics enables him to create outlines and make impressions that leave his paintings with detail. Oil and water colour are his basic materials, while his experimentation also extend to paper, wood, and metal. In Erasure, Uwadinma’s concern was about memory, the role it plays in human narration. He looked at the setback of not paying critical attention to knowledge, especially that of experience or history. He argues that “we have not learnt from history and we keep repeating the same avoidable mistakes”. Uwadinma’s obsession with memory pushes him to also work with newspapers which in his view are not bringing forth new revelation; rather they linger along clichés and over worn description. He warns that neglecting history and feigning knowledge of past events is tantamount to erasing truth. His goal, through Erasure, is to
His goal, through Erasure, is to emphasize the essence of society to learn from history and be true to its own morals. There is reasoning for guiltiness in the work entitled Same Old News; a figurative reader in a habitual seated posture, face buried in what we understand to be a journal. Uwadinma explains: “in Nigeria context, when you compare the stories that make the headlines in today’s tabloids with that of years back, you find out that they are reoccurrence of the political affair: corruption, stagnant power, and other vices. And we have not gotten off that situation.” In the work which War, Uwadinma relates the fallout of war as we have them, “whether it’s the one taking place in Gaza or the one which took place in Nigeria during the civil war; the outcome is usually the same.” He brings to mind that after the destructions and cruelty; we all become casualties and yet pay negligence to the real bite of war. Inspired by environment and interest of humanity, Uwadinma gives preference to works of distinction. Perhaps one of Africa’s illustrious contemporary artists, sculptor who lives and works from Enugu, El Anatsui makes the list as one of Uwadinma’s gurus. El Anatsui, despite having a different artistic genre, has shaped Uwadinma’s view when it comes to “drive for excellence”. So far, Uwadimma’s work engages us on a sphere of didactic issues, putting us on a scale of principles to weigh the influence of our actions, and his themes and metaphors come with caveats that are perilous to disregard.