This study “Conceptualisation of Bomb Blast debris in Gestural Abstract Paintings” seeks to use bomb blast debris as a source of inspiration to create gestural abstraction paintings. Few artists who painted bomb blast scenes had adopted realism such artists as Ali Usman, Alfred Reginald Thomson and Brijesh Upadhyay and in surrealism approach are the likes of Salvador Dali, James Roper and Joe Igbaro. Considering the fact that little attention are paid to gestural abstraction, the aim of the study is to create paintings using bomb blast debris to achieve gestural abstraction, while the objectives are to adopt bomb blast images as imageries in paintings; execute paintings on bomb blast debris using gestural abstraction; explore bomb blast debris using different colour schemes. The conceptual framework of the study is guided by the general approach of gestural abstraction, style and techniques of Willem De Kooning (1904-1997) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), whose painting are inspired by bomb blast. The researcher reviewed related literature and works of art that are relevant to the research; these are action paintings and abstract expressionism of De Kooning, Kandinsky, Karounwi, Rothko and Newman and history of bomb blast in Nigeria. The study employed qualitative research methodology in line with practice-based research methodology. The researcher made use of photographs that captured images from bomb blast. Some of the accoutrements were also collected and photographed which were translated into sketches. The tools used for the collection of data included photographs, camera, computer system and sketch pads. The studio exploration was executed in line with the study objectives. The works were grouped into four cardinal approaches which include preliminary, exploration, developmental and conceptual stages. Findings of the study based on the objectives are: possibility of creating painting from the aftermath of the bomb blast with various media which inspired the researcher to articulate sketches for the objective two, works were produced to confirm that , it is possible to conceptually generate bomb blast debris with resultant effect, few works that can substantiate possibilities of generating bomb blast debris with gestural abstraction to achieve a concept were created, and colour or chromatic abstraction means of translating a concept, emotions and feeling was adopted. In conclusion, the study concerned itself with the possibility of conceptualization of bomb blast debris in painting to make visual statements in painting compositions. The paintings showcase a phenomenon to provide in sigma of deviancy that seems to threaten the peaceful co-existence of a Country- Nigeria. The study recommends that; further studies should be carried out on other aspects left behind by the aftermath of bomb blast, further studies should be encouraged in other related areas such as deviancy characters in a society. The study has; revealed stages of gestural abstraction using bomb blast debris in contemporary practice in Nigeria, evolved aesthetic considerations of bomb blast debris in conveying both gloomy and peaceful visual abstract expression in painting, established the possibilities of achieving action and gestural abstraction in painting using bomb blast debris in practice-based research, revealed that gestural abstraction can be used to create sublime colour interaction in interrogating bomb blast debus in painting and also to establish the sociological role that artists play in bringing to fore the hideous effects of bomb blast debris in Nigeria.
1.1 Background to the Study
Bomb blast in Nigeria seems to have assumed its peak ever since the first letter bomb in 1986 was recorded. Since then, series of bomb blasts have taken place and many Nigerians and properties have been lost. The Boko Haram uprising that started in 2009 and has led to the death of thousands of Nigerians in Maiduguri, Wudi, Potiskum and other parts of the North. Bombing of the shopping malls in Abuja and other parts of this country laid credence to this fact. Bomb attacks in churches, mosques, army barracks, market places, police stations, major Nigerian cities including Abuja and at campaign rallies had followed a steady pattern, most of which were masterminded by the Islamic sect Boko Haram. The researcher however discovered that, the bomb blast scenes have not been documented in compositional paintings. The researcher therefore, decided to document in gestural abstract painting the bomb blast scenes which Boko Haram had often claimed responsibility (Kolawole, 2011).
In Nigeria, ethnic, religious and political violence had been in existence even before Benin expedition of 1897 (Terwase, 2012). According to Osarhieme (2001), military incursion by British force under Admiral Sir Harry Rawson captured and burnt the city of Benin and looted their treasured art, including the Benin Bronzes to end sophisticated bureaucracy of Benin Kingdom in 1897. There were other orchestrated violence which resulted in wanton destruction of properties and human resources among which were the ethnicity riot of Zangokataf, religious riot of Maitasine in Kano (1982) and Sharia crises in the Northern part of the country (1982). There were other accidental explosions such as Ikeja cantonment in2002, leading to the death of more than one thousand persons (Kolawole, 2002). Debris of these riots were left behind and subsequently either documented or not. Boko Haram insurgency that led to many deaths and insurgency of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta -MEND are relevant to this study (Kolawole, 2014). Nigeria began to witness bomb explosion as an act of terrorism in the civilian era when bomb explosion went off in Warri during an Amnesty Dialogue organized by the amnesty programme of the then President Umaru Yar‟Ádua to tackle the causes of militancy in the Niger Delta region around March 2010 (Manzo, 2014). Another explosive went off during President Jonathan‟s one year anniversary celebrations at eagle square in Abuja in 2011. Ikeddy (2011) posits that, there is no reason for the bombers to stop their sacrilege assault on man since government (President Jonathan‟s administration) was treating them with “kid‟s gloves” and even contemplating with an amnesty. The heinous scenes of these bomb blasts have never escaped pages of daily newspapers, magazines, internet and radio. Few sadistic debris of bomb blasts and destruction have often found their way on the news and newsprints. Ehioghae (2012) puts it succinctly thus:
When bomb strikes, it leaves in its wake relics of finitude – death and destructions to accentuate human vulnerability. Idea of death by all indications is ugly and hideous face that does not make us smile. It makes the living grimace when we come face to face with its grotesque appearance.
Alison (2009) posits that, the truth of bomb blast might be hard to say, painful to bear or even drastic for the truth but still needs to be said. According to Dapachez (2011), looking back on those first few decades after Nigerian civil war; the first letter bomb that killed Dele Giwa – a onetime Editor-in-Chief of the News Watch Magazine during General Badamasi Babangida‟s regime; kidnapping, bombings, killings and intimidation of opponents in the South West of Nigeria during General Sani Abacha‟s regime are very significance for this study. Kolawole (2014) reveals that, the Nyanya bomb blast at the Motor Park in Abuja in 2014 and in other parts of the country by Boko Haram left behind grimace shocking debris scenes, disillusionment, and anxiety among the world populations and the Nigerian populace as a whole because the effects were disastrous. According to Milstein (2008), whether a bomb is civilian or military targeted, the effect is often devastating causing sudden drastic rise in ambient pressure that often creates permanent damage or death to human beings, which consequently becomes debris of a blast.
Sfu-ma-to effect – the smoke-like-haziness that subtly softens outlines in painting; particularly applied by artists like Tinguely, Leonardo and Correggio to their paintings were applied in the study. This is because, bomb blast cannot occur without a smoke-like-haziness in nature which is visible and could be perceived from the scene. Figure 1, (page 4) titled: “Homage to New York” by Tinguely is an example of Sfu-ma-to effect. Visualising effects of destructive themes in paintings pose question as to whether or not anything good will come out of something that has already been destroyed. Making visual statement out of destruction on surfaces is an act of thematic expression found in kinetic art works of Jean Tinguely (1925-1991). In the 1950s, Tinguely made series of paintings, which depicted “metamatics” motor devices that produced instant abstract painting of destructive instruments to achieve some degree of control over the final image (According to Milstein, 2008). The series of small works resemble Abstract Expressionistic painting titled: “Homage to New York” (Figure 1) by Tinguely, is an example of abstract painting painted white against a dark night sky; included piano modified into a thematic painting machine with vials of coloured smoke, and a host of gears, pulleys, wheels and other forms of machine parts.
Homage to New York” (Fig. 1) has been premiered and destroyed in the sculpture garden of the museum of modern art; still looks relevant from, which the researcher drew inspiration and subsequently adopted for this research. Devastation caused by war is similar to bomb blasts, which often times had their root cause from anger that gave birth to destruction (Kleiner, 2009). Artists who have explored effect of war as sources of inspiration in the production of art works include Otto Dix, Beckmann and Groz. Dix (1932) explains that though war was a horrible thing to behold; there was still something tremendous about it. He analysed that, one has to experience how human beings who fall a victim of war found themselves in an unleashed state to know what and how human nature feels and behaves as the war progresses. It is on the notion of the few scholarly works on bomb blast debris that prompted the researcher to explore in painting the effect of bomb blast, drawing inspiration from Tinguely and Dix‟s works using debris of bomb blast as subject.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
In Nigeria, there have been occurrences of bomb blasts in several places in Northern Nigeria, which are often traced to Boko Haram “an Islamic sect” insurgence, that has been described as “savage” by Ezekwesili (2015) and whose activities have resulted in wanton destruction of lives and properties. The gory images which resultant effects are decoy of debris scenes; a left behind by these bomb blasts and are featured regularly on television, pages of newspapers, magazines, the internet and other media by individual expressionists. Artists like Karunwi, Takahashi among others have adapted images of bomb blast debris in painting expression are however more of realism and surrealism in style and techniques. The problem of the study is that there are no artists who have conceptualised bomb blast in painting using gestural abstraction. Therefore, the researcher conceptualised bomb blast in painting using gestural abstraction.
1.3 Aim and Objectives of the study
The aim of this study is to document through painting bomb blast debris, while the objectives are to:
adopt bomb blast images as imageries in paintings;execute paintings on bomb blast debris using gestural abstraction;explore bomb blast debris using different colour schemes;create conceptual paintings of bomb blast debris using gestural abstraction andincrease the documentation of Nigerian bomb blast in painting
1.4 Research Questions
How can bomb blast images be adopted as imageries in painting?How can paintings be executed on bomb blast debris using gestural abstraction?How can bomb blast debris be explored using different colour schemes?How can conceptual paintings be created of bomb blast debris using gestural abstractionHow can the documentation of Nigerian bomb blast be increased in painting?
1.5 Justification of the Study
This research is inspired by the Boko Haram activities in Nigeria, which have become endemic and needed artistic attention. Research has shown that, artists like Takahashi who painted images on bomb blasts have used surreal and naturalistic approaches. The researcher conceptualises bomb blast debris in gestural abstraction to break new grounds in painting.
This research is further based on the need to produce works that will inspire visual artists to produce works that will reveal the atrocities of this social mayhem caused by the activities of Boko Haram members. The few available evidence (art works) on bomb blasts are either found as captions in newspapers, photographs. The paintings of the bomb blast disasters will not only initiate agitation in the minds of the public to attempt at solving the problem, but also add value to documentation of Nigeria bomb blast increase in painting for posterity.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The study is significant because, the activities of Boko Haram have spread across several parts of the country for some time and need to be represented in painting. Adams in Oladesu (2016) explains that, the intrinsic value of artworks depends largely on the general assessment of the artists who created them based on their own aesthetic conviction. Therefore, exploring bomb blast debris in paintings will be an inspiration to the society through its ideas, knowledge and discoveries on how to create peace and calmness in the country. The study will also contribute to the existential body of knowledge in the documentation of Nigerian bomb blast increase in painting.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The focus of this study is concerned with gestural abstraction of bomb blast debris effects in painting. This research relied on photographic debris of bomb blasts in Nyanya Motor Park in Abuja, as well as other areas like Maiduguri, Wudil, Potiskum and Bauchi, as a source of painting inspiration since these are the most prominent cities affected by the insurgence.
1.8 Delimitation of the Study
The study is delimited to the exploration in painting the effect of bomb blast debris using the images of the bomb blasts in Abuja. The research depend on multiple media which include oil on canvas, oil pastel on paper, Acrylic, coffee on paper and Enamel on canvas.
1.9 Conceptual Framework
This research is guided by the general approach of gestural abstraction, style and techniques of paintings of Willem De Kooning (1904-1997), Wassily Kandinsky (1886-1944) and Karonwi (b.1968) who were either inspired by comic images, war and violence, which introspectively are tandem to bomb blast. According to Duchamp (2003), thematic abstraction of war and its aftermath were the underpinnings of the movement that became known as Abstract Expressionism. Kandinsky, who was inspired by the unconsciousness of his inner mind, was equally influenced by the abstract works of Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian whose style is known as gestural abstraction or automatic picture making of painting directly without study. This style of painting is based on philosophy of Abstract expressionism of art to make a conceptual statement with emphasis on the subject matter devoid of what the eye perceives. It includes expressions rooted in the mandate of Robert Rauschenberg based on the idea of actual perceiving and understanding the subject beyond normative experience, an idea anchored on Duchamp concept of a work where the subject matter is more presumptuous than its physical representation. The author who was himself a cubist, futurist and Dadaist was a revolt with his art to subvert and undermine the value system of the ruling establishment which had allowed the first world war of 1914-1918 professed that, “Statement is more than any other which underpins all conceptual expressions”. His deliberate designs were scandalized statement that shocked both authorities and the general public with series of photo-stills. In this instance, the concept reflects what the idea has to say rather than what the eye perceives.
This researcher therefore, adopts gestural approach paradigm to explore debris of paintings based on the philosophies of abstract expressionists of De Kooning and Kandinsky (action painters) as well as Rothko and New man, whose sublime idea of colours has inspired this study. The researcher approaches the painting in automatism and free expressionistic style where forms are conceptualised beyond the guiding standard rules of experience and subjectivity. The researcher adopts the wet-on-wet technique as parallel to the study to philosophically conceptualise bloodshed that flowed at the times of the bomb blast.
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