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On paper, Fadugba’s strokes separate ‘Value’, ‘Worth


om Modupeola Fadugba, two parts of a triptych painting tilted ‘Pink Lake: The One That Looked Back’ 144 x 60 inches 48” x 60” each, acrylic, ink

Five years after Modupeola Fadugba quietly entered the Lagos art scene, she is back, releasing her energy of contemporary expression onto the soft surface of burned papers. Fadugba had announced her presence when she picked the Outstanding Production prize for a structural design and game installation at African Artists Foundation (AAF), National Art Competition in 2012.

But with her debut solo titled Heads Up, Keep Swimming, just shown at Temple Muse, Victoria Island, Lagos, Fadugba’s initial traces of a young artist with an avant-garde texture seem to have paved way for the dynamics of fine art. In figural paintings that depict the art of swimming as a metaphor, the artist, who studied engineering, uses her brush strokes in probing behaviourial issues, particularly individual efforts against tides of socio-economic shades.

In animated effect, the swimming captures traces of an underwater expert, so suggests the high level of interest the artist has in the subject. With over 90 paintings on burned paper, done in acrylic or ink, Fadugba expands the contemporary fine art space of Lagos, which has been struggling to free itself from the resilience of traditional rendition. In fact, her strokes are as fresh as being insulated from the influence of any local mentor or master.

Being a citizen of the world, whose upbringing – as a diplomat’s child – involved living in different cities, the beauty and trauma of her experience radiates on canvas. For example, she wonders why there are less black women swimmers.

“My research shows black women hardly swim.”

But her canvas attempts to create a balance. She draws similarities between her depiction of swimmers and artists’ struggling through the tide of success.

“The swimmers navigate their ways through the water, representing artists that also find their ways in life.”

In clustering the figures on papers, black as highlights of the swimsuits plays a significant role in the aesthetic composite of the imageries.

“In my choice of colour, I am conscious of black.”

Among such works is ‘How To Do A Four Head Bend,’ a depiction of back-diving in the central image among other small figures. And in ‘Ready, Set, Dive,’ comes the poolside competitive point of take-off as swimmers go head-to-head.

And sometimes from the trauma of tragic experience comes the distilling of good tiding. Fadugba discloses that her burned paper identity of canvas revisits “life in Rwanda as a child… the burning represents trauma” during the crisis in that country.

Still on the metaphor context, Fadugba brings art’s rat race in the iconic red tag, to stress the need in redefining value. This much she plays around with her Synchronised Swimmers series. She attempts to draw a line between value and worth, across stratas of life, through using art, perhaps artists too as example.

“The swimmers as objects or actors actively engage with this assignment of value, and whether together or alone, the gaze is on the red circle – even when instructed to ignore it,” Fadugba explains in her Artist Statement.

Perhaps, the real value exists in celebrating a medic, Dr. Stella Adadevoh, whose professional dedication has been described as ‘heroic’ during the Ebola challenge in Nigeria. In oval framed portrait style that perhaps connotes medal or reward, Fadugba’s portrait of Adadevoh has all the memories of resilience against the deadly Ebola. For example, ‘Eko O Ni Baje’ inscribed on one side of the monochrome portrait reminds one of the then governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, whose efforts then have been likened to that of Mayor of New York, Rudy Gulliani during the 9/11 terror attack.

Sponsored by Zircon Marine, Zenith Capital, Veuve Clicquot and Gallery, Heads Up, Keep Swimming was curated by Sandra Mbanefo Obiago. The curator notes that Fadugba’s background in engineering and education gives her art its strong themes.

“This is her first solo with three series for the show,” Obiago adds. “It goes beyond young women swimming but also the challenges of succeeding in life.”

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