Thursday 15 September 2011

Abi Adeyemi...back home with abstraction

(First published in March 2006)
Anxiety (2004)
United Kingdom-based artist, Abimbola Adeyemi left the shores of motherland 15 years ago with a luggage-load of emotion only to return with a passion for the canvas, specialising in abstract and minimalism art.
Currently in Nigeria to establish her art while hoping to awaken art collecting potentials abound in the country, she spoke with TAJUDEEN SOWOLE on her kind of art.

Abi’s art
  Over time, artists have taken different positions in contributing to global needs.  From architecture to textile, automobile and other related technology, designs have always been in the forefront of global development. I resolved to be an abstract artist because I believe that this kind of art relaxes the nerves better, particular in a world full of tension.
As a child growing up in Lagos, to that curious teenage girl in United Kingdom full of ambition, diverse environment at different times, have always shaped my thoughts. 

Aquatic Eye (2005)

  As an abstract painter, the relationship I have with my works is of expressing deeper personal spiritual feeling as well as probing into the inner thinking of others. This usually forms the subjects of my works.
Because of the opportunity of being exposed to different cultures, I have been able to blend these cross culture values into my paintings. This has given my work wider acceptability across cultures in the UK, a society that is arguably, one of the most multicultural in the world. As Nigerians, be it at home or abroad, the truth of the matter is that we are no longer alone – quite a lot of foreign influence, particularly, western values shape our taste in every thing. Basically, my art is adaptive of any society.
Over the years, my choice of art has exposed me to vast areas of the profession. Overseas, visual artists are involved in other areas beyond their immediate constituency of the gallery.
For example, my works were part of several non-traditional gallery shows in the UK such as Volvo Urban Interior Show 2003, Grand Designs Show 2004 as well as Black Music and African Crafts Fair IV and Greenwich Arts and Crafts Market to mention just a few.
 Also at different times I have been involved in several private works on interior decorations in the UK in my capacity as a member of the Bayswater Artist Association and the Contemporary Art Society, all in the U.K.
Between art and marketing
As an artist, I am also a chattered marketer in U.K., practising as a freelance marketing researcher. In spite of my robust career in marketing, art still takes a priority even though it brings in less income. But the exposure I get in marketing, learning different technique and strategy is also coming as a tool in selling my art. For example I did a research work for London Metropolitan Police, which required that I talked to people of diverse background; most times I burst into people, invading their privacy and yet I get results. Of course sometimes I got people who shut their doors on my face.
Journey into art
My sojourn into art got triggered by some emotional period I went through as a child growing up in Lagos and a teenage girl in the United Kingdom. While in Lagos I used to take summer break to stay with my mother in London and later moved over there to continue my education. That was 15 years ago when I left Nigeria.

I started my primary school from Omolewa Nursery and primary school, Ibadan, Oyo State and a brief stay at St Annes Secondary School also in Ibadan before I went back to the U.K. During this period, I was troubled up till the time I joined Calford County Girls’ School, and Westminister College. So I was pushed into a very lonely period and I found solace in the art. I must confess that up till now I am a loner. I don’t have friends in the real sense of it.
  By academic training: I studied marketing in the U.K., but recently I went into professional art practice after such a long build-up. And I must say that art has brought succour to me. I am really relieved now. Painting brings me joy instead of bottling up my problem.
Along that journey, my mother saw what I was doing and told me that my father used to be an artist in Nigeria and that he was the designer of the First Bank logo. That much I never really bothered to find out from him because we are not close. In fact its been a long time I saw him last. That was when my mother told me he was ill and I had to visit him in the hospital. And for the kind of person I am, I don’t want to build my career under any one’s shadow, I just wanted to be myself.
  I am proudly a self-taught artist and that has not made me any less an artist or affected my prospects and career in the U.K. I am relatively well patronised. Apart from participating in several shows in the UK, I get regular private work in interior decoration as well as having my works in greeting cards.
Abi Adeyemi
  Home Coming
Since I returned to Nigeria late last year, I have been trying to study the situation here. I have learnt that the visual arts scene here is very active based on the regular art exhibitions holding at galleries, particularly in Lagos.
Interestingly too, I learnt that there are abstract artists, particularly women, in the country. But what I found disturbing is that in spite of the high quality of works of Nigerian artists, presentation of these works at some of the galleries, betray the effort invested by the artists. For example you enter a gallery and all you see are works covered with dust. There are very good galleries I have come across in Lagos, I must confess. What I am saying is that no artist’s works, even though they are not selling, should be so poorly presented. At one of the galleries I also noted that the works are not given spaces to breathe as so many of them are mounted so close together. This is a bad way of presenting works
  While I have the plan to start exhibiting my works here in Nigeria, I am yet to strike a deal with any of the galleries. Last year December, I did a preview in Victoria Island for a select audience. The response was not bad.
  My brief stay in Nigeria so far has taught me that it could be professionally suicidal to start planning any exhibition without adequate awareness. My works, I believe, would say a lot about the kind of artist I am. .
Challenge in the home front

In the U.K., artists do not survive just through the gallery alone; there are other outlets such as interior decoration jobs for example and reproduction for greeting cards. I am yet to fully get what the picture here really looks like.  But my observation is that people’s sense of decoration in Nigeria is a little bit imbalance. Nigerians spend so much on personal appearance and pay less attention on the way their home looks. For example, you see a woman dresses so gorgeously, spent fortunes on wears and other accessories. But visit her home all you see – if at all the family is art enthusiast – are very old works of art on the walls. Even though it is alright to have old works for keeps, it is unfashionable not to replace them and enliven the home.

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