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O’da Gallery in The Ascendancy of Machine with Abass, Amoda

By Tobi Awodipe
06 November 2022   |   4:02 am
Last weekend, O’DA Art Gallery opened its doors to the public for The Ascendancy of Machine, exhibiting the works of Olu Amoda and Kelani Abass; two prominent Nigerian artists.

Amoda

Last weekend, O’DA Art Gallery opened its doors to the public for The Ascendancy of Machine, exhibiting the works of Olu Amoda and Kelani Abass; two prominent Nigerian artists.

The exhibition, which kicked off on October 29, will run daily till November 19, 2022 at the gallery located in Victoria Island, Lagos.

Curated by Sunshine Alaibe, manager/curator at O’DA Art Gallery, the show features the work of the duo as they take art lovers and collectors on a journey into the influence of modern technology, which has paved the way for multi-functional practices that ultimately make life easier for the masses.

Through The Ascendancy of Machine, the artists are calling for a shift in ideals, focusing primarily on encouraging a more progressive and forward-thinking environment.

A sculptor, muralist, furniture designer, and multimedia artist, Amoda, who is popular for using repurposed materials found from the streets and dumpsites. In this exhibition, his works incorporate rusted metal plates, bolts, pipes, and rods, welded together to create figures, animals, flora and ambiguous forms. His seminal body of work, Sunflower, explores the connection between mass industry and the organic, winning top prize at the DAK’ART Biennale in Dakar, Senegal in 2014.

Amoda’s body of work, created between 2014-2015, offers complex interpretations of the Nigerian socio-political and environmental framework. The necessity to showcase and present these is timely and these ideas remain relevant in today’s Nigeria as she bears the same weight of poor structural reforms and dated political infrastructure; along with a reluctance to fully adapt to what is innately ‘new’.

Abass uses mixed media in this exhibition to highlight his thematic preoccupation, “Man and Machine”. He explores the synergies between the workmanship of man and the ease of the machine. Through painting and mixed media, this body of work showcases the interplay between the manual and mechanical, influenced by the processes of industrial printing, which the artist learned from his parents’ printing press business when he was growing up. From capturing the specific moments of ‘men at work’, the figures populating Abass’ canvases take viewers on a journey through the stages of labour intensive duties working mostly on construction sites. Explaining his art, Abass said he aimed to show that all men are equal, striving towards the same common goal. In other works, he mixes painting, actual photography and age-old printing to bring to life an old book from his family, celebrating old forms of oriki.

Abass

In using repurposed materials in his works, all of which has endured and survived the detritus of consumer culture, Amoda speaks to a shared responsibility of all these materials in bringing something substantial into existence. We see this in his ‘Rotation Against Masses (RAMs), 2014 creation, which critiques the lack of political reform in Nigeria and it questions the rationale for the coexistence of the Nigerian people.

“I’m calling on our leaders and the society at large to brace up to global technological advancement but they should also invest in her labour force as well. They need to be prepared for the technological advancement that is taking place across all fields,” he said.

“This exhibition is an art conversation between the two award winning artists. The artists and their works are phenomenal. O’DA is proud to be holding this art show and excited to be working with both artists,” said Alaibe.

Each Ram is an indication of regional areas in Nigeria and the disparity that lends itself to faulty voting systems through prideful individuals and out-dated systems. Ultimately ‘the political dispensation is the rotation against the masses’, yet Amoda states that if each element (in this case, each ram) is brought together to achieve a common goal, the outcome will be progressive instead of regressive as what obtains now.

Established in 2020, O’DA Art Gallery showcases mid-career and established contemporary artists from Africa and the diaspora. Founder and Director of the gallery, Obida Obioha, reiterated that as what is known unofficially as ‘Art Week’ in Nigeria begins with ART X starting, he said they have been eagerly looking forward to what they would present this year for this all-important week. “I have been familiar with Kelani’s work and when I went to his studio, there was no one better we wanted to partner with for this week.”

“People tend to approach art from the decorative side but it is also an incredible way to capture a moment and archive time. We are in interesting times now with what is happening all over the world. Technology isn’t without its cost; machines help us to do more but it has its dark side. I like that Abass’ work shows the common man, standing tall and proud.”

Obida, who himself trained in Milan, enjoys art that fuses African aesthetics with a contemporary nod. He says, “We work with artists that consider their craft carefully. Art gives people a time out, a way to enjoy peace and with this in mind, we designed this gallery to give people a space to just relax and appreciate art in the purest form in a calm, serene, environment. Bridging the gap between local and international audiences, our gallery is committed to showcasing artists like Amoda and Abass, who explore a wide range of themes such as, identity, technology, political commentary, social consciousness and environmental change through exhibitions, installations and performances.”