"The intention behind Omeh Chinemerem's painting "Frail victims of a construct" By Akwuruoha Chibueze Franklin
There’s a search going on that Omeh chinemerem’s painting “Frail victims of a construst” conveys.. It cannot go unnoticed. In descending order are four girl figures in procession. Their background is illuminated with multiple light sources with dark shades central in the painting, waning amidst the light.
The first figure holds a lantern that casts intense light on the subsequent figures. A portal away from the figures’ gaze holds another light while the illumination at the top, above the head of the figure holding the lantern, is dimly apprehensible.
This rich illumination defines the painting literally and figuratively. We are reminded of the power of light as we see how it stems from one source, spreads out to affect other areas, and helps shape forms. The artist presents the lantern as a tool that was handed, sort of like a torch passed. The lantern represents education at the figures’ disposal or, rather, guidance.
This keys to the idea of parents providing for their children through the school system from kindergarten to high school years. But the dilemma begets when the children are denied the opportunity to choose what career they want to pursue—indirectly giving no understanding of their children’s proclivity and uniqueness.
In the documentary on his body of work, “Saturated Nostalgia,” the artist remarked,“Imagine giving a child a lantern to find his light while forcing that child to fit into a single file, and if you don’t behave like everyone, you’re seen as a nuisance.” The artist’s statement is the bedrock of the painting’s visuality. In the documentary, he also addressed the pressure on children to have good grades, and for those who can’t keep up, they’re therefore seen as dumb without evaluating and exploring other aspects of those teenagers.
The girls in the painting presented in a line indicate such pressure and imposition to conform to the norm as it reinforces the social construct. Now, it is clear that the lantern illuminating the space in the painting could be considered misleading because what’s the purpose of education if it doesn’t extend the right to choose and express? Hence, you have the female figures who are highly dependent and powerless, moving in silence, indifferent to their true inclination.
That inclination is presented symbolically in the painting by the artist by rendering a portal surging with light at the opposite end of their gaze. The artist suggests it as a way out. The way he walked through, going for what he wanted. But the girls in the painting give it no face.
The idea and position of this portal in the painting call to mind a lecture by Dr. Jordan Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist. In that lecture, he spoke of how King Arthur’s knights search for the holy grail in the forest encircling the castle. He explained that the holy grail “was either the cup Christ drank out of at the last supper or the cup into which the blood that gushed from his side was poured when he was crucified.”
It is a holy object and can be seen as a representation of transformation Dr. Peterson says. So in search of the holy grail, each knight looks for the cup in the forest at the moment, which was darkest to him. Dr. Peterson made this illustration to say that the gateway to freedom, or in the context of the lecture, the gateway to the development of personality, is through the entrance you wouldn’t want to go through. He lays out a Jungian preconception saying, “it is by virtual necessity that what you need is where you don’t want to look because that’s where you’ve kept it.”
Consequently, it is rather convenient that the artist rendered the portal away from their gaze where the dark shade exists within, in the painting. But I digress.
Omeh, weaves intricate lines/strokes to bring out the forms of the figures. The strokes move from intricacy to it being loose. Its rhythmic pattern flows from one figure to the next, and we can certainly appreciate the fine textures of the lines and how it latches onto their bodies. However, their formation on their faces is unusual and leaves an unsettling mood conveying anxiety.
There’s fright in their procession. We see how the female figures clench behind each other, and the wary stare held by the first figure. It is as if the figures don’t belong there; in that space. Like they found themselves in some altered world, immaterial and eerie. The bumpy texture and elaborate palette knife work on the background convey that effect/state, and so does the vintage color scheme. It is beautiful to see how the artist has put this together to present an intriguing ambiance, yet, It’s rather off-putting to watch those children in such a state.
The artist draws inspiration from his experience as a child who couldn’t fit in and tries to make aware of the difficulty most children face. With concern, the artist hopes that children should be seen as humans to be unfolded rather than humans to be molded. In general, each of the artist’s ideas comes to life through his imagination, style, and technique.
Omeh, hopes to expose fears and establish the dominance of freedom and triumph. Unfortunately, the artist lives in a society that exhorts unity in diversity as a motto, then, knowingly or unknowingly, tries to erase diversity. A society where the three-headed monsters, medicine, law, and engineering, are glorified as what it should be to pursue a promising career/profession. Anything short of that is often seen as inadequate. In addition, considering that such imposition by parents comes from a place of love and security and can be worthwhile for the children’s future, yet it can be detrimental in cases when you have adults who are not passionately invested in what they’re doing.