Retrospecting with AdejimiBY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
(First published in 2007)
Between painting and photography, some artists keep throwing the challenge at technology.
Even at the age of digital imaging, some decades old and detailed paintings remain resilient. Realism painter, Muri Adejimi – a product of the revered Abayomi Barber school – is one of such artists with quite a list of masterpieces.
The artist’s show, Retrospection, an assembly of works from 1980s to early 2000, held at the French Cultural Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos, coincidentally was the last for the centre as it relocates to another place.
|Muri Adejinmi's oil on canvas Maiden Voyage (2001)|
Adejimi seems to have a passion for the female anatomy. Perhaps to satiate his thirst and followers of his art, he has this concept of a world of women, all naked. And guess where? At the waterside where most men like to meet their dates. But the men are not available in Adejimi’s concept.
The piece, Maiden Voyage (2001), is attractive more as a perfect art form than its sea of ladies. The foreground with just three of such characters further unveils the high quality of the painting: the splash of water, moist fleshes glittering under a precised sunset time of the day, bands of waist beads and wet hairs are all the combined factors that give one some kind of ecstasy.
What about a runway-like damsel in an uncommon place like the village as seen in this untitled piece? It is a typical rural setting as the ‘queen’ walks with all the appearance of the runway. The applauds, ecstasy and jubilation of the host can be felt, both at the foreground and the distance depth of Adejimi’s strokes of colours.
Bringing the runway into this uncommon setting, the artist’s silhouette of a part of the village audience against high key lighting of the lady as she steps forward, elegantly reminds one of the crowd effect lighting of a typical live performance scene. To think that rural dwellers do not miss anything in such fun known for the cities is to have a rethink of such notion, so the artist suggests.
In spite of the silhouetted images, one could see the ethnic coloration here: a Yoruba and Igbo men identified with their caps, while two women and a man seem to represent the ethic diversity of the North.
But the artist can be very weird in his concept. What will Tomorrow Bring?, Goodness and Mercy and An Oasis of Hope? are works that combine thriller, horror and adventures a la Hollywood titles. What will Tomorrow Bring? is a deforestation kind of a rural setting of greener vegetation against the background of depleting trees. There are signs of life here though, if one include the rags and abandoned household goods, and of course the feeble looking old men, faintly painted into the background.
For An Oasis of Hope?, you really do not need much stress to explain a hopeless situation of a confused society. In the piece, even the animals are part of the mad-house as the birds are so deprived that they feast on anything, even metallic objects.
Adejimi’s strokes are faultless in another piece, a 24 year old one he calls Baptism. The title and the painting do not relate if one has to limit ‘baptism’ within the Christianity context. But as an adaptation, for the purpose of a nude art piece, the artist may have found the right word for this ebony black complexion beautiful lady, half immersed in water.
Topless, except for the white scarf, the beads strapped from across her bare chest are not really enough to shoot out the breasts, but the mid-day period of the painting as depicted by the overhead lighting adds to the beauty of this sensitive part of the female anatomy. The lower part of the frame is another case-study in painting. While one may question the view of the artist that hides other part of his subject, leaving us with just the face, reflected on the water, that reflective effect is one artistic touch that is vintage Adejimi.
As inviting as these paintings are, the unattractive aspect of the exhibition was that none of the works was meant for collection. They are "Just for your viewing only," the curator of the show, Bruce Ugiomah said. The paintings, as tagged, are all collections of some individuals and Muri Arts Foundation, donated for the exhibitions.
Adejimi, a native of Ede, Osun State, Nigeria was born in 1960. He studied Fine Art at the Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Lagos, Akoka in 1973. He is listed in the Smithsonian Institutes’s Who is Who in African Art.
A prolific portraitist, Adejimi has pakinted eminent personalities within and outside the country. Some of his exhibitions are National Art Institution s Exhibition, National Thatre, Lagos, (1980), Nigerian Art Exhibition, Bonn Germany, 1982, Nigerian Contemporary Art, Austria, 1983 and A Bend in the River at the CORA’s 7 th Lagos Book and Art Festival held at the National Museum, 2005.