Friday 9 September 2011

Gbenga Orimoloye: Iwa of the Diaspora

 Sunday, 03 July 2011 00:00
 AS a student, Gbenga Orimoloye, according to one of his art teachers got the wrath of critics and tutors, alike, for aspiring to be an artist while still a student.
Feelings of the Dancec (2010)
Over two decades after, the resolute artist-student who has taken his art from Nigerian shores to the United Kingdom, where he presently lives and works, sticks to the style and technique that pitched his art teachers against each other.
Yesterday, at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos Orimoloye returned with these works titled Iwa, not to haunt anyone, but to stress the distance, which his strokes of palette knife and shades of thumbing have taken him to.

With impressionism made bolder in impasto, the themes of his work, conspicuously, shows that Orimoloye, despite his long stay in Europe is still in touch with the African cultural values. Iwa, which means character, he explains, was inspired by his concern to correct the stereotyping of Africans, particularly in the U.K. Nearly every bad character is link to the black man, he notes. “Our character as individuals is responsible for how others see us as a nation,” he argues. He also recalls his student days at YABATECH, where he was told that his work has ‘character.’ These two factors combined, he explains, bring about the theme.
Works such as as Omo Danfo, Girl in Yellow, After the Morning Shower, Feelings of the Dancer, At Home, Elegantly Dressed, indeed, exude the character of an impressionist who is consistent and conscious of forms.

In fact, Girl on Yellow, a portraiture, Omo Danfo and After the Morning Shower, are within the character of the hard line impressionist. How the artist’s palette knife radiates, even when the colours appear non-dimensional, is perhaps his great strength on canvas. For example in the green hue Elaborately Tied Green Gele, he probably would not need the blue highlights to separate the figure from the background.
Girl in yellow gele

However, in Girl, Mother and Umbrella, his anatomic scaling of child could raise an issue in draughtsmanship.
Perhaps, being too brief has it’s advantage when figural is the subject. He recalls of how a visitor in his show in Canada, would have created an ugly scene, save for his core impressionism approach to figures. 

The visitor, he says, made a persuasive case that a figure in one of my paintings looks like her mum. However, that respond turned out to be what he had hoped for: engaging viewer to interact emotionally with his work. “She saw her mum’s character in the faceless figure of my work,” he states.
In some of the watercolour works, the artist, who started as a teacher on arrival in the UK, offers what he describes as the peculiar British texture of the water medium.

Fortunately, Orimoloye is one of the very few Nigerians in the Diaspora who are full time studio artists. He boasts: “I’m prolific.” Again, Iwa, he notes, comes in here. He, however, adds, “it’s not by my efforts alone, because my wife supports me a great deal. Without her, I could not have been doing this on full time.”
Orimoloye’s last show in Nigeria, Iya Ni Wura, at Didi Museum, was in 2002.

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