Head of Sale
£150,000 - £200,000
Head of Sale
Private collection, Nigeria.
This late work by Enwonwu demonstrates the mastery of his painting techniques in his latter years. Completed only a few years before the end of the artist's life, the current work synthesizes some of the most striking and dynamic elements from Enwonwu's artistic career. First displaying an interest in the theme of dance during his time as a student, the artist's consistent fascination with re-creating movement, in both sculpture and paintings, is quintessentially displayed in the present work.
The most aesthetically significant aspect of this work is Enwonwu's ability to convey grace and movement with such purposeful and limited brush strokes. In this painting, the artist uses his preferred palette of bright blues, yellows, and browns, which one often sees in his African Dances and Ogolo series in both water colour and oil paintings. Evoking a near aquatic atmosphere, the swirling blue sky and the bright streaks of yellow in the primary dancer's dress and finger tips expertly convey the dramatic and poised forward movement of the dancer.
The presence of the muted dancers in the background create an additional sense of motion for the viewer providing an echoing effect. As noted by Ogbechie, the formal structure of compositions in the artist's work had, by this stage, evolved through the 1990's, 'eliminating all suggestions of physical and contextual boundaries by setting his dancing figures in an ambiguous pictorial space'. (S. Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, (Rochester, 2008), p. 182.). Indeed, the structural composition of this work adheres to the angular yet rhythmic arrangement of the figures that possessed a consistent element within the series.
Enwonwu first encountered the book 'Africa Dances' by Geoffrey Gore in 1945 when he was studying in Oxford. Concluding that Gore did not understand the true significance of dance in Africa, the artist embarked on his own representation of what he believed Africa Dances to be. Enwonwu began working in this theme during his studies in England and would continue to revisit this series throughout his life, with this painting being one of his last in the series. A lifetime of experience and dedication has therefore been captured in this single canvas.
Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, (Rochester, 2008), p. 182.