Friday 9 September 2011

Adeola Balogun 2011: With Ants and Giants, Balogun warns reckless leaders

By Tajudeen Sowole
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 00:00
 From the arrogance of political office holders and submissiveness of the led, sculptor Adeola Balogun, in a new body of work titled Ants and Giants draws analogy from lesser creatures to alert reckless leaders about an imminent revolt
Adeola Balogun's Defence Mechanism (rubber and metal) 2011
FROM June 25 to July 9, 2011, Adeola Balogun will be sharing his thoughts on the similarities between the strength of supposedly weaker animals – against the arrogance of the so-called king of wildlife – and the struggle of the oppressed people, particularly in the developing nations, for self-determination.

To be held at Quintessence Gallery, Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos Island, the show will also depict neglect of Nigeria’s natural resources and wastefulness of its work-force. For the artist’s career, the works stress his protruding image as a metal artist whose zeal for other medium appears insatiable.
 The show also depicts neglect of Nigeria’s natural resources and wastefulness of its workforce. For the artist’s career, the works stress his protruding image as a metal artist whose zeal for other medium appears insatiable.
  Part of the inspiration for this show, he explains, came from the revolt in some Arab countries early this year after a gradual build-up late last year. Thematically, Balogun states that just as an army of ants has the strength to reduce man to nothing, the Arabs, particularly in Egypt, had shown that indeed, the power to effect change lies in the hands of the people.
Ten Tons, metal mixed nedia
   One of the strongest animals in wildlife, the bull, though often tamed by man, but cautiously approached by wilder animal of the jungle such as lion is used as a metaphor by Balogun to encapsulate the mental capture of people in developing nations, under autocratic or fractured democracy, particularly in Nigeria. In a mixed media of metal and rubber from tyre waste, Balogun renders a bull in its common and familiar action. Titled Defence Mechanism, Balogun’s bull, though does not show the muscle features of a uncastrated male bovine, perhaps because of the texture of the tyre waste used, the emphasis here on the head of the animal resonates the natural instinct in every creatures – economically or politically oppressed people inclusive – to respond when pushed beyond tolerance.
   Still on the bull as a metaphor, Balogun in another work, a bust-like titled Ten-Tons, the weight of the animal is likened to the strength of the people. But the artist laments: “most oppressed people don’t realise their weight, but rather remain docile.”
  With the rigour of forcing metal and iron to express intellectuality, Ants and Giants, in addition to decoral value, indeed radiates stimulation for a possible Arab-like revolution in countries of docile people. This show could also confirm a shift in artists’ contributions to the issue of Nigeria’s underdevelopment, as this had been the thematic engagement in the last few exhibitions in Lagos.   
  The last two shows at Nike Art Gallery, for example: Prof. dele jegede’s Peregrinations and Rom Isichei’s Quiet Spaces made strong statements on the quest for an equitable and just society.   
  For Balogun, it’s a familiar thematic expression: his last show, Infinite Patterns and Forms Patterns interrogated the wastefulness in government. The exhibition was part of his research into environmental management. And in this show, he again revisits the issue as the tyre medium symbolises what he describes as second value to every facet of life. The inability of government to create a reservist opportunity for retired civil servants, he maintains, is a loss to Human Resources (HR). This much the show explains in such works as Multiple Harvest, a germination process and Nature’s Abundance, depicting land fertility.
  Aside the bull, other creatures such as herons depict the artist’s thematic thoughts. And that there is a link between these animals and conservation, particularly Nigerian government’s weak interest in the subject is worrisome. For instance, an expatriate and conservationist in Nigeria once said that as close as 10 to 15 years ago, it was still possible to see bulls along the Lekki Epe road, which possibly has the link with a place called Igbo Efon (forest of the bulls), between Lekki and Ajah, along the same road. Though a small portion along this axis is retained for conservation, but so much has been lost to urbanisation because of lack of consideration for conservation.
  And as Balogun is using these creatures as analogy in leadership imbalance, conservation, he says, also inspired the works. His interest in animals, he explains “was encouraged when I had some works to do for Nigerian Conservation Foundation.” This, he says, led him to research some animals such as herons and bulls.
Multiple Harvest (metal) 2011
  Within the sculpture genres, metal, undeservedly, is less appreciated in the Nigeria’s art circle. Renowned name of metal, Olu Amoda’s prowess in creating a strong awareness was rapidly winning sympathy until about five years ago when he took a break and traveled to the U.S. However, imminent lull during that absence was averted as Balogun, one of Amoda’s former students at Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos practically assumed the adele (a regency status) from where he has shot to prominence. Between 2006, when he had his debut solo titled The Seed Phenomena, through several group shows, his last solo titled Infinite Patterns and Forms and the current state of his art, Balogun has expanded the horizon of the genre with representational and abstract renditions that makes him gladiate in the tough terrain of metal, collapsing stereotypes in art appreciation and collection.
  As an effort in stressing the retrogressive effect of policy makers’ prodigy on his profession, he has included, in this show, what he titled Challenge Series- Council 1, II and III. The series are in solidarity with every victim of the antics of electricity generator technicians. Perhaps in the future when regular power supply is taken for granted in Nigeria, works such as these, which are made from relics of “fake spare parts” would remind the people the way we were. Balogun laments that technicians has “ripped me off” in fortunes and caused frustrating manpower loss just to get electricity to work in his studio.
 Ants and Giants, indeed, though offers inspiration, but the artist’s environment appears like a complex one where, even evolution of sanity is not in sight. That complexity, he argues, should not stop artists from “using our arts to make statement on these issues.”

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