The framed collage artwork featuring a cosmopolitan-attired black woman, with heavy features boldly made up, is neither the winner nor the runner-up piece at the 11th Spanish Visual Arts Competition. What attracts viewers to the piece is the artist’s skillful application of bits of coloured cans like pieces of a jigsaw, re-arranged to create a whole image; its use of recycled materials, and the fact that the artwork among a few others were judged by several artists at the event, as ingenious and original pieces of artwork that deserved better positions than a few of the runner-up pieces.
In the collage, the artist uses multicolored cans to create patches of colours that form the abstract female form’s headscarf, earrings, jewelry and what seemed like a regal outfit. The same coloured cans forms her shaved and thin brown eyebrows, the white and brownish-black insides of her narrowed eyes, tapering down to form a pert red-and-brown nose and thick red lips. Bits of black cans form the background of the image.
Speaking to the artist, Izuchukwu Muoneme, he says he collects varieties of coloured cans, with colours as his main motive. However, in making his collages, he starts with a drawing, followed by his imagining where each colours would be placed. Sometimes, he marks with pencil, parts of the drawing where a patch of colour would go. Next, he cuts and fits the coloured bits to the appropriate spaces. As the work progresses, he can change colour positions.
Muoneme happened unto environmental arts by improvisation, while looking for ways to create new medium for his collages other than paper. At some point, he experimented with beads. Beads however, proved an expensive and tedious medium to work with. It was then he turned to the environment and discovered cans as a medium for collage art. “Cans are interestingly multi-colored. And I thought, “If all these colours are found in cans, I can as well use the cans the same way I use papers,” That’s how I came to environmental arts.”
With cans, Muoneme saved money spent purchasing materials and paints for his art pieces. He focuses on applying the cans inherent colours to create colourful abstract pieces. The process has changed his perspective on environmental sustainability.
He believes much of human needs are easily sourced from the environment, while the things termed ‘wastes’ are much useful when recycled. “I think the environment has much to contribute to the arts, via recycling, and that’s an area am keenly researching at the moment.”
Muoneme is looking at ways to apply the base and can covers in creating art. In addition, he is looking at blending cans with other art media, while keenly researching other environmental materials to craft new art medium.
His art piece may not fit the theme of the Spanish Virtual Arts Competition. His colour blending may be crass. In fact, his style lacks the complicated, project-like, life-size and commercial environmental pieces of Ifesinachi Iwuanyanwu. With the passage of time, practice, knowledge and finesse, his pieces might, advertently, achieve the natural and effortless aesthetical qualities of El Anatsui’s non-painted artworks.