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Suraju Adekola, Monsur Awotunde, Olorunfemi Kinrin in Triad


Abstract painting from ‘Town With King’ series by Monsuru Awotunde

When Suraj Adekola, Monsur Awotunde and Olorunfemi Kinrin showed their paintings in Lagos, the artists continued with the bonding that had kept them together through schools and post-training career. The bonding progresses with Triad, a touring group show, which began last month, at Alexies Galleries, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The show, according to the gallery, was being proposed to continue in the UK and US at a later date.

From Adekola’s exploring of balance and harmony to Awotunde’s abstraction that creates convergence for modern and contemporary appropriation, as well as Kinrin’s humility in submission to colour dynamics, Triad brings a rich gathering of artists into the Lagos art space. Interestingly, the three artists are based outside of Lagos.


After showing his solo titled, Nihin Lohun, a body of identical work at Rele Gallery last year, Awotunde now adds exciting tones, shapes and colours to the current pieces as part of Triad. This is shown in a streetscape abstract titled, Town with King, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 22 in (2018).

Deriving its theme from a Yoruba native democratic cultural saying, Nilu t’o l’oba, to ni ijoye (In a town with King and chiefs), the painting coalesces geometric and hues to form narrative textures about a people’s value. Indeed, Yoruba questions the relevance of leadership whenever odd things happen. The artist relates such value to the recurring state of oddity in Nigeria.

And what has inspired the drastic depth in tones of his work; compared to the monochrome-like pieces he exhibited last year? “Then, I was coming from a different environment in the UK,” Awotunde recalled, while describing the clime as “less colourful compared to Nigeria.”

He also explained reason for the transformation in his work, saying, “when I got to London, my work shifted from representations to abstraction.”

Professing to be an artist, who creates balance and harmony between colours, shapes, texture, mass and space, Adekola applies the mentioned features in embossing imagery from the canvas. Among such works that extend the dynamics of colour and space are mostly close-up faces such as, ‘As We Live, So We Will Be Remembered’ series and ‘Talking Eyes’. However, the artist exudes quite a profound eclectic form in the two sets of paintings.

Further expanding his diversity of forms is what he calls ‘Purity series’, a set of work with white dominance.

In ‘Victory 2’, an acrylic on canvas, Adekola almost dissolved three standing figures into the dominating white background. Though in victory sign features, the figures’ expressions could as well pass for transparent declaration like, ‘I come with clean hands’, stressing the purity essence of the series.

Kinrin is an artist whose art of linear colour rendition lifts lino printing-like tones onto the canvas in painting forms. More about his deviation from the regular is the choice of focus. No political or social comments, the artist just likes to express his strength, and of course, deficiency too, in the process of creating of art. His works, he says, are “borne out of the realisation and consciousness that as an artist “I have a serious deficiency in tonal composition and understanding of colour.”

That sounds more like an artist who tries to express his bold movement of brush under the cover of modest statement. However, art is practical; deliberate or not, Kinrin’s work exposes his strength. Mostly, in close up of faces, the linear colour identity shows resplendence.

Triad is the first major group show of the artists in Lagos. “They work together and very receptive,” curator at Alexis Galleries, Patsy Chidiac, describes the artist’s bonding: “They work in the same environment from schooling at Auchi Polytechnic and later as lecturers, Kogi State Polytechnic.”

Adekola attended Auchi Art School and graduated as one of the best painting students in 2007. He has sustained a full time studio practice since then with several group and joint shows under his name. His works have been featured in TKMG Auction in Nigeria, Bonhams in London and Piasa Auction in Paris. His work features diversity in style that is reflective of the many perspectives people are forced to deal with in our everyday life circumstances. His current body of work oscillates between figurative representations and abstraction, which demands strong emotions and conveys message.

Awotunde says: “The components of theorisation, contextualisation and articulation are as important and relevant as the work produced for an artist in the direction of my kind of current practice. These components become more imperative especially in an environment where abstraction is not intuitively grasped. Exhaustive explanation is mostly expected by my audience for every decision behind my creative rationale. For this reason, first, as a lifelong visual art ‘student’ and an instructor, continuous search for ways of improvement in these components becomes more important to me.”

According to Kinrin, “the paintings I have created for this exhibition do not address current artistic trends, are not topical, do not address issues of social commentary, they do not depict directly or indirectly the political landscape or politicians inside or outside the country, in fact, as far as I am concerned, they are not conceptual. They are simple, plain and direct, they were borne out of the realisation and consciousness that as a painter I have a serious deficiency in tonal composition and understanding of colours. The paintings are mostly colour studies that I embarked upon in my quest to better understand colours.”

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