Diary of an Alchemist...a solo exhibition of Samuel Onyilo

The power of an art to incite argument is often the best proof of its value, My personal belief in the sincerity of the works of Samuel Onyilo and the future of his ideas to elicits dialogue and his practice of dealing with the synthesis of the mundane and the eternal inspires and engages me on a personal level.

Sam is an artist that is not entirely devoid of the influence of technology but rather he works from digested personal experiences. He has a reasonable development of what we regard as serious art or artist; it is evident that he is no adventurer striving for momentary notoriety, considering the strangeness of his beliefs and philosophy. In one of my conversations with him, he told me, He will never paint a Rose just to adore a wall, but rather you will bow to the divine reality in a petal of a Rose.

Such in-depth conviction in an age where everything is almost in production line, where with neural network system, a with a programme called magenta Computers can paint.


In the book “art and spirituality” by kandasky wassily:

Kandesky wrote…“Just as art is looking for help from the primitives, so are men turning to half-forgotten times in order to get help from their half- forgotten methods.” Speaking of the present digital age of artificial intelligence and robotics and virtual realities and augmented realities and the internet of all most everything..

 Alchemy or the art of alchemy in this age seem to echo the above quote of Kandinsky of half-forgotten methods…a recent exhibition at Getty Research Institute in 2017, concluded…The art of Alchemy as…

 “Long shrouded in secrecy, alchemy is now recognized as the ancestor of modern chemistry. Alchemists were notorious for attempting to make synthetic gold, but their goals were far more ambitious: to transform and bend nature to the will of an industrious human imagination. For scientists, philosophers, and artists alike, alchemy seemed to hold the key to unlocking the secrets of creation. Alchemists’ efforts to discover the way the world is made have had an enduring impact on artistic practice and expression around the globe. Inventions born from alchemical laboratories include metal alloys for sculpture and ornament, oil paints, effects in glass making, and even the chemical baths of photography. The mysterious art of alchemy transformed visual culture from antiquity to the Industrial Age, and its legacy still permeates the world we make today”.


He calls this latest creative adventure “Iconic Metaphor”

Iconic Metaphor” are opposite’s that permeate life and that has intrigued him for a very long time. He responds to beauty as a homo-aesthetic being, haunted by beauty and the bizarre, an artist driven by empathy and moved by the gory sight that a degenerated humanity litters on the landscape of modern time.

 In one of his works (“The Giant Pygmy under the shadow of modernity and achievement“) he questions civilization and modernity, like a still born, pregnant in the alter of hypocrisy in a matrimony of shame. He describes any modern man who feels above himself as a pygmy in his canvas, he plays out his deep digested experiences as he manipulates elemental forces like fire, air and water to question our today society.



He approaches his material like Alchemy in search of meaning and form.  He believes that an “artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning.” ( Kandinsky Wassily).

Samuel makes the rules for his materials, he is a modern master of alchemic elements, he transforms and transmutes materials to obedience, a commander of forms, in working with burnt woods he sees faces locked inside the charcoal like Michelangelo saw a David in the marble.




One of the things this exhibition tends to questions is the privileges that science avails us at a particular time, he believes that facts and realities are subjective, it depends on what you know at a particular time; for example; we were told that an Atom is an indivisible part of an element and in less than 20 years, science told us again that it is divisible.


I love to refer you once again to a predictive conclusion of some early past ; "If the science of the day before yesterday is rejected by the people of yesterday, and that of yesterday by us of today, is it not possible that what we call science now will be rejected by the men of tomorrow?" And the bravest of them answer, "It is possible."

So in what we call modernity, despite all our patent and well-ordered security, despite our infallible principles, lurks some higher segments of a hidden fear, a nervous trembling, and a sense of modern insecurity.


If every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions, then the works of Samuel Onyilo belongs to the new hybrid professional artist we have seen rise in the past 10 years, artist who work not only in their studios or for themselves, but most frequently for our shared humanity and around modern global issues. Artist who work not out of economic necessity, but out of a deep organic conviction that the work she or he is called to do must have some sort of relevance and meaning, artist who are answering the global call of Socrates’ Man know thyself’

 Modern artists are beginning to realize their social duties. They are the spiritual teachers of the world, and for their teaching to have weight, it must be comprehensible. And this is the attempt of this exhibition, as I seek to bring the artist and the public into sympathy, to enable the latter to understand the ideals of the former. For like Andrenne Rich said in “Dreams of a language’ “ we are out in a country that has no language, no laws Whatever we do together is pure invention. The maps they gave us are out of date by years."

 I see this country today in Samuel Onyilo’s Canvas.


Thank you!

 Nduwite Ndubuisi Ahanonu ( Curator)