Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Dancing Women

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Lot 14*
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E
(Nigerian, 1917-1994)
Dancing Women

Sold for £ 12,500 (US$ 15,581) inc. premium

Africa Now

21 May 2014, 14:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
Dancing Women
signed and dated 'BEN ENWONWU / 1975' (lower right)
oil on canvas
38.5 x 30.5cm (15 3/16 x 12in).

Footnotes

  • Dated 1975, Dancing Women was completed towards the end of Enwonwu's 'African dances' series, which started at the beginning of the decade with works such as Africa Dances (1973). Framed within an ambiguous setting, using mostly blue and green colour palettes, the complementary-coloured yellow item that the foremost female figure holds in Dancing Women was a common device used by Enwonwu throughout this period.

    This episode in Enwonwu's oeuvre signalled a new phase in his painting and one freed from a strictly literary narrative; he instead focused on ideas of abstract orientation. The female figure, which dominates the 'African dances' artworks, became a broad symbol of an indigenous aesthetic. It is widely regarded that by the early 1970s Enwonwu had perfected this rhythmic motion, oscillating perfectly between the organic and supple, and sharp abstraction of figure and surface. The proliferation of arms and legs splinters perception, hinting at more figures than there appears to be.

    Enwonwu returned to Lagos after the end of the Civil War in 1970, when he was restored to the majority of the posts he held before the conflict. Dancing Women is characteristic of his later work in the series, as he creates a great amount of depth in the pictorial field using the multi-figure composition. Comparatively, his earlier works for the 1940s and 50s existed in a much shallower space, often with figures considerably more elongated.

    This latter 'dance' period in Enwonwu's career proved transitional; by the 1980s he took the skills he had developed, creating vitality and multiplicity of dance in his painting, into his vivid and fluid masquerade portraits, such as Otakagu (1979) and Ogolo (1989). With the innovative utilisation of multiple focal points and jumps in perception, and echoes of one image emanating throughout a work, he was able to create for the viewer the sensation of empathy with the dance he created in his work.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY
    S. Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, (Rochester, 2008), pp.41 - 45
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