Piecing the puzzle together
It didn’t happen on purpose, but a day after local artist Emmanuel Osahor turned 24, I met him at the first place in Canada he ever exhibited and tried to sell his artwork. In the back of Block 1912 on Whyte Avenue, he took me through a series of composite photographs that he calls Fractures.
“A lot of the projects I’ve done since I left school are tied to how it’s possible for us to live in societies that have margins,” says Osahor. “In many cases those margins seem okay. We’re okay with having homelessness. We’re okay with having new immigrants who struggle to adapt. We’re okay with having people who can’t afford to buy meals for their families.”
Using primarily painting and photography, much of Osahor’s art deals critically with themes of marginalization and separation. He’s rightfully hesitant to pigeonhole himself into just those two themes, and says his aim is to just get people thinking.
Fractures is a series of film negatives that when layered, create a single composition. Osahor directs my attention to one of his photos. It’s of a lonesome stranger walking through what seems to be a forest that has burst out from beneath the city sidewalk. He says the base photo was taken on the road to a community outreach center he volunteers at.
“What I really love about that space is it creates a space for people who might feel marginalized or might be seen as marginalized, to create their own community,” says Osahor. “They’re in a space that is super open and super welcoming and is there to help them. But I pass by that place and I see some people and they still feel kind of isolated. You know, that place closes. It’s not open 24 hours a day, and so it’s like ‘what happens after?’”
Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, Osahor came to Canada in 2010 with glossier expectations of our society. Set on studying design, seeing it as the more lucrative option, Osahor eventually decided to follow his passion and switched to painting.
Since coming to Canada, Osahor’s work has been featured at Block 1912, Café Mosaics, and Latitude 53’s Incubator Series. In 2014, Osahor won the BMO 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition.
“Something that’s important for me is inviting feedback,” says Osahor. “This work is talking about marginalization and trying to comprehend marginalization and all these things. I don’t want the work to exist in just a vacuum of just artsy folks and people who are interested in thinking about art. It’s definitely for this community. It’s for Edmonton as a city, because I think Edmonton is in an interesting place trying to decide what kind of city it wants to be.”
Now, at age 24 and sitting in the coffee shop that started off his gallery work, Osahor has a matured perspective on his work and where he wants to take it.
“I think I’ve caught up, like my thinking as an artist has caught up,” says Osahor. “I’m not necessarily trying to make a product anymore. It’s about, first of all, trying to make something I fall in love with, and if someone else falls in love with it, cool. That’s awesome, but it’s not about selling anymore.”
Until Sun., July 29