Friday 30 September 2011


Unearthing the arts in funeral engagement
 By Tajudeen Sowole
 There is indeed art in everything including funeral activities as indicated last week at the maiden edition of Peter Areh Lecture.
 HELD at the Aina Onabolu Building, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos and tagged On Art and Cultural Enterprise, the maiden lecture in honour of late art promoter, Peter Areh, was delivered by Krydz Ikwuemesi, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State.
 Areh was stabbed to death by yet to be identified men, who invaded his house on Thursday, July 2, 2009. He died at 37.
  He had contributed to the first edition of U.K.-based Bonhams auction house’s sales, Africa Now with sponsorship by Access Bank and held in London in 2009. The auction featured works of over 30 African artists from 11 countries.
Chairman of the event, Mr Sammy Olagbaju

  Given the art entrepreneurial character of Areh, during his brief stay in the business of art gallery, the theme, was expected to be synonymic, focusing; within that context. However, Ikwuemesi thought differently, bringing another angle into the entrepreneur of art and culture, by connecting grief, which is associated with mourning and funeral rituals, to creativity.
   And it’s quite coincidental that the work was not originally written for the lecture, but “for an international project I did a year before the death of Areh,” Ikwuemesi stated. It was originally titled Celebrating Tragedy…Art and Theatre in the Anatomy of Death and Funeral in Africa.
 He said most cultures across the world may not see arts contents in death, yet the activities triggered by the demise of a loved one convey “elements of art and theatre in a variety of ways.” The fact that, art, over the last century, has been broadened beyond the traditional painting and sculpture to include performance, installation and other new media genres, also give strength to Ikwuemesi’s view.
  Bringing the issue down to the African rituals of funeral, he stated that for example, a non-African could easily decry the “fanfare and “boisterous atmosphere” of funerals here, and perhaps believe that such rituals are meant to “devalue the gravity of death.” Ikwuemesi argued that these theatre-like funeral rites has turned death and its components such as grief and mourning “into a democratic experience shared by the dead, the bereaved and the community at large in a solemn, but hilarious affirmation of life through a codified denial of the finality of death.”

Krydz Ikwuemesi, coordinator of First Peter Areh Lecture.

  If Africans, Nigerians in particular, have, submissively lost much of their cultural values to the tenets of monotheist, funeral appears to be an exception. Ikwuemesi noted that as the people “become more sophisticated, so also have funerals are more complicated, despite the “attempt by churches, chiefs and communities to curtail the excesses in burials.”
  Aside from musical band, which the lecturer argued is more like “artistry installation,” the graveyard is also an extension or has the characteristic of that level of art genre or medium.
How much of these rituals artists and other “friends” of art got involved during Areh’s funeral was not part of Ikwuemesi’s lecture, but he stated that “I am disappointed” in the unimpressive turnout of audience during the post-Areh gathering in Lagos.
  Indeed, the attendance at the lecture did not reflect the status or contribution of Areh to the development of contemporary Nigerian art. However, the presence of, notable personalities such as Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Sammy Olagbaju; prominent art patron Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi; president of Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN), Chief Frank Okonta and another member, Olasehinde Odimayo added weight to the event.
  Also present were Areh’s mother, Mrs Augusta Areh and daughter, Ms Chinezie Areh. Olagbaju, in his remark, said Areh was a vigorous discussant, despite his brief stay in the art business. “He enthused me to the point of making me part of his several art activities. He was fair and squared and had an ambition to make art live beyond him.” 

Reviewer of All Things Will Die Okay Ikenegbu

  If anyone was in doubt of the richness of Areh’s Pendulum Gallery, Lekki, Lagos, Gbadamosi disclosed that during one of the late art promoter’s exhibitions, “Sammy beat me to one of the very works I so much loved.” And some of these collections, he noted, were not just from established artists as “Areh had lovely ideas on how to nurture younger artists to prominence.”
Last June, the Enugu leg of the maiden lecture was held at the National Museum, Abakaliki Road. In Lagos, a selected poems on death and loss in memory of Areh titled All Things Will Die, which Ikwuemesi co-edited with Okey Nwafor, with contributions from other poets was presented during the lecture.
  In his review of the book, sculptor and Head, Fine and Applied Arts, Institute of Management Technology, Enugu, Okay Ikenegbu, noted that “the poems engage a unique combination of intelligence, empathy and seriousness of lament, profundity of thought and emotion.”
  However, the reviewer pointed out that, in the book, he missed “a sort of ballancery and evaluation of the impact of Areh’s loss to close relations.”
 Art patron, Yemisi Shyllon, an engineer wrote the foreword of the book.
Mrs Augusta Areh (mother of Peter Areh) giving the votes of thanks at the event
 The lecture was the initiative of two groups: Art Republic and Pan-African Circle of Artists (PACA).
  Areh's tentacle went beyond the visual art scene as his culture centre, shortly before his death, was involved in another project that encompassed performance arts. Known as Mmanwu Carnival, it was a project scheduled to run till late this year. 

In travels, Olotu’s masterstrokes pulsate
 By Tajudeen Sowole

With the advent of digital imagery, documentation of great sites by tourists may have become everybody’s fun, but Oyerinde Olotu’s brush re-enacts fond memory of places and people coinciding with Nigeria’s independence anniversary celebration.
Olotu’s masterstrokes on the beauty of Nigeria’s landscapes as captured in the solo exhibition titled Cities, People and Countryside, opens on the independence anniversary day, October 1 at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos.
  In about 25 years of his three decades career, Olotu has worked more on landscape themes. Although, the body of work, according to him, was planned to represent the entire country, most of the landscapes, particularly from the rural settings, he stated, are recordings from the southwest only. 

Idanre Hill series I, II and III (2010 oil on canvas, 40 x 34 in)

  The state of insecurity, in some parts of the country, he lamented “made me restrict my movements to the southwest and parts of Edo State.” And quite interesting that Olotu, over the past two decades, has stuck to impressionism, yet remains resilient, make this exhibition another medium for the artist to put the loyalty of his admirers to test, once again. In fact, when he marked his 50th birthday with the exhibition, Nigeria and Beyond: the Past and the Present, at Quintessence Gallery in 2009, the theme never changed, yet it was a gathering of top art collectors, including oldie, Chief Torch Taire.
  And when the show opens tomorrow, one of the relics of colonial rule, among other works, will be on display in a perspective rendition titled Abandoned One-lane Colonial Bridge (oil on canvas, 2009). In this composite, including a vegetation that has spilled over from a nearby forest onto the, perhaps, rustic metals of the bridge as well as the two figures in the distance, the artist’s application of light appears like an attempt to give another life to the forgotten monument. The location, he disclosed is Sobe, Edo State.
  Not escaping the touch of Olotu’s palette knife is Oke Idanre (Idanre Hill), Ondo State, Southwest of Nigeria, and its small valley-town, swallowed by the hill. This awesome work of nature, which has become prominent in art and photography rendition is better appreciated in painting, as reflected in a number of painters’ works over the decades. Olotu’s Idanre Hill series I, II and III (2010 oil on canvas, 40 x 34 in). has added to the celebration of one of the greatest sites on earth.

Abandoned One-lane Colonial Bridge (oil on canvas, 2009)

  The artist insisted it’s one site he would love to paint as many times as possible. And that these works are rendered in three tones of graduated colours and two eye-level perspectives underscores the vibrancy of painting; challenging photography and its digital imaging in these aesthetics of impressionistic palette-knife stroking.
  Artists would always argue that the quietness of the rural areas offers more concentration and the right ambience in plein air painting. This makes one wonder how contrasting work such as On the Third Mainland Bridge (oil on canvas 34 x 26 in, 2009) was achieved in  plein air. It’s a view, about 300 metres into the ascending point of the bridge, from the Obalende end. The question is; Where was Olotu’s easel mounted? “Painting on a busy traffic place like the bridge in Lagos was one of the most difficult adventures I took to get some of the works done,” he responded even as he admitted that half of the job was completed in his studio.   
Oyerinde Olotu and one of his works (2011)

  Although most of Olotu’s works in the past were done in monochrome, for this show, there are quite a number of colours and hues to view.
  In people, the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, Mother Theresa, Yusuf Grillo ––the artist’s teacher at Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Living Legend; and Mallam Aminu Kano are among personalities that enjoy portraiture spaces on Olotu’s canvas, for this show.
  For this artist’s profile, Cities, People and Countryside may just be another lift after one of his older works made a surprise sale at the last auction of ArtHouse Contemporary in Lagos. The work, Independence Parade Lagos 1972 (acrylic on synthetic mat, 33.5 x 33 in.) was bidded from N250, 000 asking price, went through over five minutes of haggling and sold at N1.9m; it’s on auction record for the artist. Olotu had his first solo exhibition at the now rested Viv Gallery in 2001  
  He was Overall Best Student when he graduated in 1981.

 Adeodunfa … sharing joy of collections
 AS a student, Adekusibe Odunfa was a collector of his Art teachers’ works; a passion, he developed over 10 years ago and has grown to include owning a full studio and sharing his collections with other enthusiasts.
  In a show tagged Over A Decade Collection of Paintings and Sculptures, which opened yesterday, at Terra Kulture Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos, the artist said, “the works bring memory of old strokes and vibrancy of today’s art.” 

Samuel Ajobiewe’s Ram Ranch
    Few days earlier, Odunfa, who prefers a combined name of Adeodunfa, explains that it’s important for him to share these collections before they are carted off by individuals.
   He, however, warns that some of the old works are not for sale, but just for members of the public to enjoy the atmosphere of collective viewing.
  Most of the works are not really new to the public, as his Tents Gallery, Surulere, has featured quite a number of them several times shows.
  So, what’s new about this show? The environments, he argues, are different and noted that the Lagos and Victoria Islands, being the hubs of art cannot be left out in seeing the works.
  And as he insists that some of the works are not for sale, one doubts if the painter would be able to resist offers, particularly, for works of artist such as Biodun Olaku, whose Untitled, oil on board (25 X 37 in. 1992), at the last ArtHouse auction was sold for N2.2m — far beyond the asking price.
  On the Olakus in Odunfa’s collection, the younger artist must have collected these works at the time the former’s signature was less in demand. He recalls, “I collected the work when I was having my internship under Olaku at the Universal Studio of Art, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.”
  His passion for collection, Odunfa says, is as strong as painting. That quite a lot of these works were collected during his undergraduate days at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, showed that he had sub-consciously been training himself in art collection while learning the skills of brushings.
   Among these works are those of Lasisi Odutokun, (brother of the late Art teacher, Gani Odutokun) and Sanni Muazu.
  Works such as these, indeed, are swelling the resurfacing of old works as their market values increase. Also, they remind viewers of the old directions of these artists’ palette knife or brush movement.
  For example in Muazu’s Alone in a Dream (oil and Canvas, 1998), a resting abstractive figure against the monochromatic background oozes the characters of Odutokun’s wave-like movement of colours.

Asanni Muazu’s Alone in a Dream (oil and Canvas, 1998)

TO show that his collection goes beyond the tastes of established names or admiration for his Art teachers and mentors, he showcases works of younger generation artists  such as Samuel Ajobiewe’s realism The Ram Market and Chinedu Uzoma’s charcoal piece, Faceless Mind.
   Other young artists featured are: Ehiforia Henry, Morakinyo Seye,  Akanbi Yusuf
Ogunnusi Dolapo, Bimpe Adebambo, Biodun Badmos, Bunmi Ayaoge, Idorenyin
Ogaga Toudinye, Olumide Onadipe, Kehinde Oso, Umeh Bede, Segun Philips, Soji Yoloye, Tayo Olayode, Emeka Ajuwah, Osagie Aimufia, Femi Oyewole, Abdurazaq Muhammad and Donald Ekpo.
    Adeodunfa school’s environment would not stop hanging on his themes as the Durbar series continues in this show with a piece, Warming Up, among some of his works on display.
   In 2009 Adeodunfa had a solo show titled Phases and Faces, which featured his works from 1999 to 2009.
  He is a member of a group of artists who blazed the trail with Iponri Studios’ maiden exhibition, 2008 and the second outing of the group called Isokan, 2009.
  He graduated from ABU in 1998 and emerged winner in Xerox National Art Competition, 2000, and Guinness Art Award, 2004

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