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In new show, John Oyedemi interrogates art appreciation

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For Dr. John Oyedemi, his forthcoming solo, titled Talking Canvases, which holds from March 27 to April 3, 2021 at Alexis Galleries, Victoria Island, Lagos, is a movement from one end to the other.

At the Alexis’s artists-in-residency in 2018, which led to a group show, Oyedemi quietly unveiled the new period of his art in what he described then as as ‘Linear Painting’ technique. That much is louder now with fresh tone of colours.

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Oyedemi is one artist that is bringing freshness to the much-bashed repetitive themes.

His new focus creates a timeless art, though backed by some academic contents. Such examples include, Royalty On Errands, Camouflage, Arrivals (Fishing Village) and Dauntless and others.

A simple theme for an exhibition, so it seems, but Talking Canvases probes into art appreciation and its perception of colour form and linear assimilation.

Oyedemi revealed how the exhibition’s central theme captures the “state of mind, which gives voice to each canvas in terms of colours, lines and forms.”

Ahead of the exhibition, Oyedemi told select guests how his intention was to “create a bit of mystery in my paintings.” His new period seems to celebrate the academic contents of art. “This is viewed from academic understanding of various art movements and what they represent to me.”

Beyond populating the canvas with common human characters on horsebacks, the focus, he explained, is exposing the aristocratic part of the culture.

This much was noted in a set of works he calls Royalty series, in which “aspect of affluence, authority, wealth, using Durbar motifs,” forms nucleus of the visual narratives. Like most artists whose art has link to their immediate environment, Oyedemi’s northern Nigeria base, over the decades, offered him windows through which he saw the depth of the Durbar culture.

For Alexis, Talking Canvases reopens the gallery’s’ space once again for solo exhibitions. It’s been a long stretch of group exhibitions for over a year.  The next one year “will feature more solo exhibitions,” assured curator and founder, Patty Chidiac-Mastrogiannis.

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Starting solo shows with Oyedemi this year, Chidiac-Mastrogiannis said, is because of the artist’s relationship with Alexis.

“His unapologetic creative style and technique has no doubt stood the test of time,” Chidiac-Mastrogiannis disclosed. “His works have achieved this feat by brilliant fidelity to their traditional roots, while also playing in the contemporary art genre.”

She described the artist’s work as “having textural depth in which they are rendered.” She noted that in recent times, he has explored “the usage of white space usually dotted in dominant tones of drops of colours, gray tones, and bluish tonalities in varying degrees.”

Sponsored by Pepsi, Tiger, Ndomie, Mikano, The Guardian, Wazobia FM Radio, Cool FM, Ups, Haier Thermocool, Cobranet, Delta Airlines, Aina Blankson, The Homestores, Art Café, And Lost In Lagos, Arzeh Integrated Ltd, AMG Logistics, the exhibition is also on virtual tour. The viewing, according to Alexis, will be d on the gallery’s social media handles: instagram- alexisgalleries, facebook- Thehomestores Alexisgalleries.

The gallery will be partnering with Loving Gaze, an independent not-for-profit organisation that is interested in the not privileged community in Lagos and Taraba states, through educational activities, basic health care service, women empowerment and vocational training. The partnership included donating part of the exhibition proceeds to its cause, the curator disclosed.

Oyedemi teaches Fine Art at the University of Jos, Plateau State. He was trained at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and has over two decades practice in both studio and academic careers.

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