Forms in soulful dialogue
The exhibition opens on Friday May 13, 2017 and will be on till June 14 at Quintessence Gallery, Parkview Estate off Gerard Road, Ikoyi. Coming from different artistic backgrounds, school of thoughts and generation gap in terms of age and practice of these artists are duly and well reflected in their works of art. Kunle Adeyemi studio, Mushin, is the base and professional starting point of some of these artists.
The studio was also the venue of the first show of the group in 2013 with the title, “Open Studio 1” (Open Studio exhibition catalogue, 2013). “Dialogue of Forms” was the title of their second show, held at Reconnect Art gallery, Ebute Meta, 2014 (Dialogue of Forms exhibition catalogue, 2014).
According to Oduyele (2017); “The group did not function under any particular name in their 2013 Open Studio exhibition. But, they were already established as a group with the name: The Visual Explorators, before staging their 2014 show.” It was the 2014 exhibition that ushered the name:
The Visual Explorators, into contemporary Nigerian art.
Kunle Adeyemi happened to be the rallying point of most of the artists in this exhibition, and also the arrow head of the group. He is the oldest of the lot at 58 years, and also one of the teachers and inspiration of some members of the group.
They all seem to have their own peculiar styles and approach which distinguishes each artist from the others in a unique manner. Kunle Adeyemi, Tunde Oguntuyo, Biodun Okemakinde, Adetola Adenuga, Olushegun Oduyele, Bashir Kalejaiye, Dayo Adeyemi, and Luqman Jimoh are the consistent original eight artists who were involved in the first and second shows. They are also taking part in this third exhibition: Soulfulness. K. K. Olojo-Kosoko was the only notable addition to the group in their second outing. He is also taking part in Soulfulness as well as newcomers: Alade-gbongbe Aderinsoye, Hodonu Nathaniel, and Isaac Joseph.
These four artists added to the previously mentioned eight complete the list of 12 taking part in Soulfulness. The two previous shows of the group also had 12 artists in each of the two separate shows, thus there must something special about a dozen artists.
Kunle Adeyemi’s paintocast work, “Wheel of Fortune”, and his mixed media, “Drummers Ensemble” are his two exhibits in Soulfulness. Adeyemi’s “wheel of fortune” are in ‘series’, they are all produced in the round shape format. They dwell on the mythical eternal rolling ‘wheel of fate’ chiseling, molding, sculpting and perfecting man’s destiny in the universe. With different iconography of man, the natural elements, and other life forms and matter depicted in the work for aesthetic finesse and purpose. Adeyemi achieved his goal of creating awareness on the certainty of fate from an African perspective.
“Drummers Ensemble” is a composition of five stylized adult male drummers, backed up by some sekere (African maraca) players with caps on their heads, dressed in Yoruba attires of reds, blues and sap greens. The essence which was achieved is to convey the universality of music with or without vocals from a Yoruba cum African talking drum perspective.
Tunde Oguntuyo’s “Timeless Cock Crow”, “Moonlight Dancer”, and “Road to Nationhood” are three mixed media works with different themes. According to Amodu (2015), “one of the traditional duties of the cock in the past is to announce the time of day…traditionally cocks are reliably relied upon all over the world to announce the time. The creation of the clock and watches made many to forget about the time conscious crowing cock.”
In “Road to Nationhood”, Oguntuyo contextually used the setting of six sitting children, passionately passing the Nigerian flag to one another to symbolize the fact that the survival of our country in the future is in the love, ideals and good morals instilled in our children that will lead us to a much better country. “Moonlight Dancer” is focused on a moonlight energetic maiden dancer.
“Gele O Dun” and “Surprise” are Biodun Okemakinde’s mixed media entries for Soulfulness. Though, he might still show more works to surprise us when the show opened. “Gele O Dun” is a painted/ivorex printmaking depicted portraits of beautifully styled head wraps adorned by thirteen exotic African ladies. Contextually, Okemakinde used “Gele O Dun” to show that the beautiful face of a lady is further beautified through the mastery of the art of wrapping, spreading and tying/knotting a head wrap on a lady’s head thereby creating a complete work of art. It is a story of the countless beauties of Africa with their uncountable head wraps.
Segun Oduyele’s “Yellow Bus: Old Architectures I’ and ‘II”, and “Communion” are three mixed media works with minor recessed and relief printmaking standard aiding the painted finishing of the compositions. “Yellow Bus: Old Architectures I’ and ‘II” are necessary visual documentation of part our present transport and architectural history for future generations.
In “Yellow Bus: Old Architectures I’ and ‘II” Oduyele captured the regular, common place Lagos State approved Yellow commuter buses that are now fading out to the large ultra-modern BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) buses on high ways. Segun depicts the yellow buses in their natural environment of Lagos yesterday’s popular modern buildings.
Fashionable houses of old that are now losing their place to grandeur eye-popping architectural master pieces. It is a truism that everything new will become old in time. The yellow buses, old buildings with well-placed decorative motifs in an ambience of joyful regret in terms of the bright happy yellow buses, and the moody, shy and withdrawn gray, dark brown and blue houses with limited human forms in the first work, while the second has no human being show that they are really on their way out. “Communion” is a socio-religious commentary on two Christian sisters who are deeply trying to communicate their intentions to God.
“Aje”, “Flower Verse”, and “Benin Dancers” are Bashir Kalejaiye’s three mixed media in Soulfulness. Kalejaiye’s works show sincerity, clarity of forms and straight to the point tendencies in forms and contexts.
In “Aje”, he depicts a beautiful calabash with decorative motifs on a background of traditional motifs. But the main theme which is the Yoruba word: “Aje” simply means wealth in English. It was represented with cowries in the composition. Cowries are the traditional Yoruba symbol of wealth as well as been a legal tender in the past before the arrival of Europeans on our continent. “Flower Verse” is a simple straight forward portrayal of a verse filled with flowers. The flowers in this picture are uncharacteristically disenchanted instead of being enchanting and very attractive. “Benin Dancers” is a stylized rendering of five Bini female dancers. The ladies are also playing the African maracas.
Adetola Adenuga’s “I am beautiful”, and “Friends of like mind I’ and ‘II” are three mixed media with more sculptural tendencies than prints and painting. “I am beautiful” is a social commentary on the back in vogue Afro-hair style of our ladies. The heart shaped well make-up stylized face of the lady with an Afro-hair style in “I am beautiful” is unmistakable because her head occupied nearly the whole space in the work which is more or less her intention. “Friends of like mind I’ and ‘II” are founded on the message of unity, trust and understanding, togetherness and love.
K. K. Olojo-Kosoko’s “Ancient google”, “Co-existence” and “Tranquil feel” are good paintings from a mature painter. “Ancient google” is a realistic oil on canvas depiction with romantic blend of surrealism in the finishing of the painting. There are covered calabashes on the floor, gourds hanging from the very old wall, torn raffia mat spread out on same wall, long cloak, and the very old red clay wall with cracks and holes succeeded in creating a really ancient background. An Opon-Ifa (Ifa divination tray). As a proven landscape painter, Olojo-Kosoko’s oil on canvas work, “Co-existence”, is a romantic landscape of a major street in mostly red colours with minor shades of brown, umber and gray.
Jimoh Luqman’s “Aftermath” and “Undying spirit” are two landscape paintings. “Aftermath” is a mixed media of acrylic and charcoal on paper work, while “Undying spirit” is an oil on canvas painting. The two paintings are straight forward street scenes. Luqman’s preference of the blue colour was made very clear in the works, they are both founded on a pallet of blues with yellow and few other colours coming in sparingly. Contextually, the deserted street in “Aftermath” with only yellow commercial buses, cars, and buildings was meant to symbolize the sadness in the land because of the economic hardship. “Undying spirit” comes with the message of survival at all course whether in the rain as seen in the painting, or during sunny dry period. Whether the economy is bad or not, the people must move on with their lives.
“The Traveler” is Dayo Adeyemi’s acrylic on canvas painting. It is a realistic rendering of a white camel with a mounted rider dominating the foreground of the work. The camel rider is dressed in blue with a whitish gray turban covering his face. He is definitely a desert dweller which befits his dressing, and it is also the natural habitat of camels. Decorative motifs were expressed in the background to further add an African essence to the work. It would be really nice of Adeyemi if he humour us at the opening of Soulfulness with new recent works because “The Traveler” is not new.
“The site of destiny”, “Anonymous” and “Sweden Experience” are three typical Alade-gbongbe Aderinsoye’s abstract cum expressionistic paintings. “The site of destiny” is an abstract mixed media work with a visible big round head in the top area of the painting. Alade-gbongbe is probably trying to employ the symbolic significance of the human head as the site of destiny in Yoruba traditional believe to nail home his message.
“Anonymous” is an acrylic on canvas expressionistic painting in which the artist used a subjective landscape to metaphorically discuss human’s ‘egoistic’ and innate selfish nature. “Sweden Experience” is an acrylic on canvas abstract painting with mostly brown and umber colours in the foreground on a sappy greenish background. Alade-gbongbe thematically used the work to document and express his peculiar sense of joy, fulfilment and achievement of a dream come true visit to Sweden.
“Oju to nsoro” and “Seek and Find” are Nathaniel Hodonu’s exhibits in Soulfulness. The two-abstract works are in the round format, produced with coconut shells and plastic bottle covers on plywood. An ideal translation of this Yoruba expression, “Oju to nsoro” to English is duly captured as; seductively bewitching eyes of beautiful ladies. “Oju to nsoro” is mainly a message on seductively bewitching and inviting eyes. He uses plastic bottles of different colours of white, orange, yellow, green, red, and blue in tandem with coconut shells to pass across his message. In “Seek and Find”, Hodonu was more creative in his portrayal of a festive scene of a seeker, who has found success. With delicacies and over-flowing cups of wines going back and forth, flying up and down, brownish gaily dressed crowds of well-wishers surround the celebrant in the center with colours of ‘plastic’ success beaming in his ‘coconut shell’ face. “Seek and Find” is a well-rounded success story.
Isaac Joseph’s “Revival”, “Dialogue” and “Wise men” are three mixed media abstract paintings. “Revival” is a blue, brown, yellow ochre, and red coloured painting with suggested male forms sparingly dressed in traditional festive mode. “Dialogue” is an expressed dialogue scene for four. “Wise men” has three suggested adult male forms with long thick sticks in their hand, showing that they are three wise old men. Joseph subjectively expressed himself nicely in all three paintings.
• Rasheed Amodu, Artist, Art Historian/Critic M.Phil