Thursday 29 September 2011


Alabi…Live touch on canvas
(First published September 23-29, 2007)
IT is not very clear how often artists, these days, engage in the traditional out door painting otherwise known as plein-air.
  Largely, as a result of the faster aid of photography, most artists take their references from pictures either taken by themselves or a second party who takes no credit for the final work.
  At the solo art exhibition of Dotun Alabi titled, Four Seasons and a Day, which opened at the Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos on September 8 through 13, viewers were taken aback at the painter’s ingenuity. And what a natural subject! Some serene environment such as Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, Zaria and Lagos, were not left out of the artist’s creative probing, as the stinking Marina enjoyed a place.
  An aerial view of a quiet rural setting of Oke Ira in Ado Ekiti, was one of the puddings of Alabi's art brought to the table, to prove that plein-air, after all, is still worth the trouble.
  The misty hill in the horizon, a looming rock on the left and the green vegetation made colourful with some yellow touch on the right of the canvas are the nature’s offer to the settlers of the small town.
  Oke Ira, from the painter’s view, is buried several feet down the aforementioned scenery. In fact, the rock on the left is so dangerously placed that its tilting suggests it could, in the next seconds, rise and crush the clusters of buildings sandwiched by the stretch of vegetation and hills.
  If the aerial view offers an impression that the area is just a hamlet, another work of the same location leads a viewer further into the settlement to achieve a close-up of some of the structures in this environment.
  Even at such a close-up, a stretch of kilometre ahead, bringing the distance hills into view, confirms that this must be a large settlement.
  The haste-like look of impressionistic form in these and others that the artist claims were done outdoor, further complements the live action feeling, making a viewer appreciate the works more. Scenery like this also reminds a visitor to the show how much has been lost in the quest to urbanise every innocent stretch of nature.
    Having gone through several experiments which he termed, ‘four seasons’, Alabi, however, finds a relief in a day. That reprieve, he discloses “is in plein-air.”
  Alabi started his four seasons sojourn in figural, abstract, as well as landscapes. The second season, as the exhibition revealed, was in aquatic pieces of surrealism, oil on canvas. One of such was Melodies of Love, a romance scene captured under the water with musical paraphernalia swimming round the couple.
  His focus at the relics of a nation with lack of family value forms part of Alabi’s “third season”, as he implores both the contemporary and traditional art forms here.
  From the fourth season comes another of his creative part in depth and lines. This, he says, is his attempt to combine lines and colours.
  But the search for the artist’s A Day’s interpretation brought out some exterior works done in palette knife and captured in Lagos.
  From the abandoned vessels on the coast line of Marina, Lagos Island, where street urchins (area boys) reign, to the chaotic Obalende environment and elite’s hide out, Polo Club, in that same Island, Alabi rediscovers how the artists of old used plein-air to communicate with nature.
  Alabi’s recent exhibitions were Seeds and Seasons, 2005, Keresimesi (Christmas), 2006 and Expressions 2006. He made his debut in 1997 in a group show, Facets, at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos.


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