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Ajorin, Dancemetalphor deepens metal art knowledge

By Tajudeen Sowole
20 December 2020   |   3:01 am
Adeola Balogun, Fidelis Eze Odogwu, Steve Ekpenisi, Abinoro Akporode Collins, and Dotun Popoola, individually, have been interrogating welded metal art in Nigeria over the years. Currently, these artists have a common space to help their desire to raise the bar in sculpture, specifically, welded metal art. The common space, perhaps, the first in Nigeria’s gathering…

Lost in Art, Azubuike Emodi, MD VFD MFB. Photo: BELLANAIJA

Adeola Balogun, Fidelis Eze Odogwu, Steve Ekpenisi, Abinoro Akporode Collins, and Dotun Popoola, individually, have been interrogating welded metal art in Nigeria over the years.

Currently, these artists have a common space to help their desire to raise the bar in sculpture, specifically, welded metal art. The common space, perhaps, the first in Nigeria’s gathering of welded metal artists, also offers a window into the contemporary context of using materials in fair depth.

For art historians, connoisseurs, and other enthusiasts, the exhibition titled, Ajorin, Dancemetalphor, which opened December 7, and ends today, at Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos, there is so much to chew.

Supported by Elegance Gallery, Nigeria Machine Tools and VBank, the Ajorin, Dancemetalphor exhibition, significantly, further widens the gap between the intellectual application of sculptural contents and merely harassing people’s sight with heavy and loud materials. Under the guise of contemporary or avant-garde art, quite a lot of artists, in the last decade, throw heavy materials into space with little or no depth in contents.

For Ajorin artists, it’s time to take art lovers through sincere appreciation by distilling real content from pretence.

From Balogun’s Electrifying Rhythm, a series on steel, electronic panel, and stainless ball, to Odogwu’s stylised portrait of native content titled, Ndi Ngba Obi, which gives the viewer an opportunity to reflect on his artistic narrative and a simplified bust of hairy female from Symbol of Honour series by Ekpenisi; The Guardian, in stainless steel cutlery by Abinoro; and Popoola’s wall piece capture of female hairdressing, Eso Obinrin, the exhibiting artists allow a fair interaction between the audience and each work. And even when some of the works on display appear loaded with materials, some balance of dialogue are embedded.

Curated by Ovie Omatsola, Ajorin, Dancemetalphor brings the exhibiting artists’ known signature into a fresh leap. Balogun’s common features of rubber in mixed media with discarded materials, again, form part of his works for the show. And being an artist whose passion for depicting the bull knows no bound, the exhibition, again offers the artist a broad window to show the aggressive animal in an energised texture.

Odogwu’s mastery of heavy metal continues just as he drags minimalism into some of his works for the show. Unlike some of his past exhibitions that appealed to the sentiments of colour glazing, most of his works for Ajorin are undiluted metal in textures.

For Ekpenisi, who had a solo titled, Diary of the Iron Bender, less than a year ago, one of his works at Ajorin speaks to the worrisome lost value. Titled, Decadence of the Society, the piece, he said it’s about a man who grows out of proportion for acquiring so much illegitimately, “yet has no basement” to sustain the acquisition.

Every part of Abinoro’s sculpture emits connectivity that simplifies the message being conveyed, just as elegance reigns in his objects of art. In fact, the basement on which his works are mounted forms part of that connectivity, which boosts his metal narrative.

Arguably one of the most aggressive artists in the welded metal sub-genre, Popoola creates awesomeness from multiple odd mixes of metals. For Ajorin, his interest in deconstructing norms continues, creating colours out of natural textures of discarded hard metal objects.

Complementing the depth of creativity of the exhibiting artists is the curatorial style in presentation, which includes Thought Pyramid’s fresh method of segmenting the shows. Apart from the COVID-19 protocols, which compelled less crowding, the spacing schedules for Private Viewing, VIP section, Masters visit, and general public shows created a fresh approach in art appreciation.

“The number of attendees per day is set at 30 and their attendance is either strictly by invitation or registration at Ajorin, Dancemetalphor website, which requires the purchase of the event ticket,” curator, Omatsola explained. “Face masks, hand sanitisers, and standing points have been created to ensure visitors keep enough distance from each other while enjoying the ambient environment.”

Recalling the challenges of time constrained towards realisation of Ajorin show, Omatsola described as “most fascinating” how each of the artists delivered “four awe-inspiring pieces in less than eight months,” even during the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Most importantly, the works are of fresh imaginations, creativity, and the artists, unarguably dedicated so much into ensuring only their best is exhibited.”

For a rare exhibition like Ajorin, Dancemetalphor, it’s not uncommon for art appreciation relativity in digits value to be raised beyond the expectation of collectors. As much as the attendance at the different segments of the show, so far, had an impressive turn out of collectors, with about half of the exhibits said to have been tagged, pricing was still the issue.

Omatsola asked, rhetorically: “Can a collector or art fanatics ever pay the actual price-value for a unique and exceptional art piece?” Yes, Omatsola’s view is a common phrase in art market parlance, as a usual defence to justify the high price. The ‘priceless tag’ that dealers, auction houses, and gallerists always weave around art pieces over the years is not demystified.

“Prior to the launch of Ajorin, it took a lot of courage to ask these hardworking artists to reduce their prices to what we have now,” Omatsola said. “Because we understand metal art in Nigeria isn’t in that space of enormous appreciation yet and besides, our objective at Ajorin, Dancemetalphor is to make people appreciate and see the value of metal art which can’t be achieved if the metal works don’t mobe out of their studios and our gallery.”

He argued that metal artists make as much twice efforts to produce art from “scraps or cutleries to treasures of luxuries we witness in the exhibition today.”

Balogun, who was born in 1966, combines studio practice with an academic career at Yaba College of Technology, where he graduated from (1993/1994) with a specialisation in Sculpture.

Odogwu, born 1970 in Agbor, completed his Higher National Diploma in Sculpture from the famous School of Art and Design, Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State (1991).

Ekpenisi, born in 1978, also studied sculpture at the Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State, where he graduated as the overall best student with Distinction in the 2007/2008 academic session.

Collins, born 1984, attended the School of Art and Design, Auchi Polytechnic in Edo State where he obtained his National Diploma (ND) in painting and general art (2009) and Higher Diploma (HND) in sculpture (2012).

Popoola​ had his first and second degrees in Fine and Applied Arts with specialisation in sculpture and painting respectively at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria.

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