Arts & CultureCampus & CityCultural Affairs

Exhibit Review: ‘5 Artists 1 Love’ at the Art Gallery of Alberta

Unified by a shared spirit of unwavering confidence, five distinct art styles are showcased at ‘5 Artists 1 Love’.

Every year, five talented African-Canadian artists are chosen to have their artwork featured in the 5 Artists 1 Love exhibit at the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA). This year, the contrast between styles and characters is stark yet purposeful. Curated by Darren Jordan, the collection’s bold and direct emotions leave no room for guesswork. The timeless pallet and dynamic compositions create an atmosphere of unrestrained energy and radiance.

Macha Abdallah’s youthful neon portraits are strikingly alive. They bring optimism and joy to the gallery. Meanwhile, Anthony Chinedu Ezeifedi’s poignant black and red drawings display pensive figures in swirls of unembellished reflection. Miguel Matthews’ oil paintings show a tougher, more masculine form of self-assurance, while Martin Kwame’s photographs capture the motion of Edmonton’s vibrant, modern cityscapes. Through multiple mediums, Lorelle Diane Whittingham shares a buoyant, unabashed message of resilience.

Abdallah, a self-taught multidisciplinary artist, uses brilliant colours in her acrylic paintings. The convergence of only two or three colours adds a touch of the abstract to her otherwise realistic portraits. The faces are tastefully off-center, their features brought to life by heavy shadows and effortlessly confident expressions. Defined shapes and lines give the portraits a concrete presence.

Abdallah’s work, Cornrow Crown, is simultaneously retro and futuristic. A severe red coat gives the portrait a dramatic, theatrical flare, while everything else is blue. Together with the colours, I found that the clothing transported me back into a sci-fi movie scene from the ’60s. The coat is simple, yet the crisp shadows uplift this simplicity to make it all the more imposing.

The nostalgia of Abdallah’s paintings is evident yet not overwhelming. Rather than serve as a beacon to any specific time, the portraits capture a universal, ageless form of beauty. The woman portrayed in Cornrow Crown casts her gaze straight into viewer’s eyes with alluring poise, whereas the man in Abdallah’s Amasunzu looks up with an intense awareness. In both portraits, expressive hairstyles add shape and personality to the silhouettes. Open pride in individuality is an innate part of each portrait’s allure.

Ezeifedi, who was born in Nigeria and is now based in Canada, draws his inspiration from everyday occurrences.

This inspiration is evident in Ezeifedi’s I Failed to Let Go Again. The pose of the boy in this charcoal drawing is natural and no-nonsense, capturing his emotions without any cluttering or embellishment on the side. All that matters is the boy and his thoughts. The heavy charcoal strokes and remaining blank space hints that his feelings are fleeting and genuine.

Being honest with yourself can bring freedom and newfound understanding, and I perceived Miguel’s artwork to be a recognition of this inner-honesty. It is not necessary to fully understand or define an emotion in order to embrace it.

Much like Ezeifedi, Mattthews also harnesses the powers of black and white in a few of his paintings. Matthews, who was born in Guyana, uses spray paint and oil paint, as well as other mediums, to create his artwork. His portraiture has a plasticine-like quality which feels smooth and uniform. In Matthews’ oil painting Gator Man, a man holds an alligator on his shoulder. His un-phased expression dares you to challenge him. The well-blended shadows of Matthew’s works give them a mysteriously distant mood.

Kwame, a self-taught photographer from Kenya, takes snapshots of Edmonton in motion. The inclusion of vehicles and seemingly unaware figures in his photographs adds a human presence to the sleek, modern architecture. Unusual angles add to his works’ vibrancy.

The ethereal ambience of Whittingham’s mixed media chandelier, Disco Baby, transports viewers to another world. The moment I turned the corner of the gallery, I was swept up into the neon pink. Shadows and lights intertwined like hopes and challenges.

On the other hand, Whittingham’s Higher Self-Portrait, which blends ceramics and paints, is down-to-earth. Inspirational slogans such as “I belong” drive-home a message of inner-strength.

5 Artists 1 Love blends the realistic and the abstract. It is unapologetically fearless and blunt in its expressions of mindfulness. The angles and expressions are off-balance, leaving me with a sense of non-stop movement.

The exhibit is displayed at the Art Gallery of Alberta until April 7.

Natalia Gala

Natalia is a first-year student majoring in conservation biology. Her favourite pastime is exploring other planets by writing dystopian science fiction. When not inventing alien civilizations, she’s learning languages or running.

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