Browne returns in Art for the Soul(First published Tuesday, August 05, 2008 )
By Tajudeen Sowole
By Tajudeen Sowole
ONE of the pioneering graduates of the University of Benin's Faculty of Fine Art, Cornelius Tokunbo Browne adds another mileage to his mission on the canvas.
Having been using his art for evangelism in the last 20 years and staging shows in the U.K. and Nigeria, under the nomenclature, Gospel Art, the need to widen the scope of that mission, he said, has brought about another branding he called, Art for the Soul.
While challenging the way some people use the word secular, Browne believes that every aspect of life cannot afford the absence of God. Secularity, he added, is nothing but anti God.
Quite an uncommon outlet of the art in this part of the world, but the artist-evangelist must have been testing the waters of the art scene and enjoying some quiet following since two decades when he started. But coming out into the art gallery could be a different challenge.
Collectors of his art, he disclosed transcend the Christian fate he proclaims, noting that "admirers of my art cut across all faiths; Hindus, Muslims, Christians and everyone who has a spiritual consciousness."
As he prepares for a solo art exhibition at the Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos which opens on Saturday, August 19, through 15, 2008, 30 works, he said would be on display. But 20 out of these exhibits, he added are prints.
And why prints? "I am using whatever medium available to promote my art because I take after the likes of Picasso who used various media available at that time to advance their skills, and promoted such to the world."
From the paper reproduction of the works made available were about two figural pieces that raised one's curiosity, each with a nude content. For a supposedly gospel art, doesn't this look complex? Nudity within the context of his art, he argued, is abstract and not in the erotic perspective.
He said: "I don't have any problem with nudity, the kind of nude I use in my art is not erotic; there is erotic nudity and neutral nudity. And spiritually, anyway, we are all naked before God. My kind of nudity is abstract." His art he stressed is a blend of spirituality and contemporary art. Still on his definition of nude in art, another work Adam and Eve offers visitors to the show a revisit of man's first parents as this abstract piece has the torsos of the couple concealed under shades and lights his paint brush.
However, beyond the gospel mission Browne has a skill-driven commitment as his work suggested. For example in three of the works like Joy Comes, Revelation and Shines in Darkness, an artist who flaunts his blend of studio skills with the branding touch from the advertising experience is noticed.
Some of the other exhibits expected to make the event are I'm Watching, Greek titled, Colnonia, Pray and not Faint, Spirit of Truth, Psalm 139, Numbering My Days, and Melody among others.
Even though Browne had practiced for a greater part of his career in the UK, he said he avoided group shows with fellow gospel artists over there.
"I don't share their kind of belief- most of them, like the Christians in the UK want you to believe that Christianity should be played down. They are not as committed as we are here. So for that reason, I didn't have any group shows in the UK," he said.
However, the artist's belief in spirituality within the Christianity context would not remove his Africaness. In defence of the Yoruba culture's belief in monotheism for example, Browne, one of the founders of the Neo Black Movement of Africa argued that his culture has no place for a lesser God.
While at UNIBEN, the artist alongside Marvel Akpoyibo, Uche Alumona, Gbolahan Dosunmu, Godwin Ehigiator. Nicholas Idemudia, Bernard Ojisua, Olagunju Ojo and John Okogie formed the movement as a socio-cultural organisation that seek to revive, retain and modify where necessary those aspects of African culture that would provide vehicles of progress for Africa and her peoples.
Browne, a Lagosian of the well-known Alhaja-Browne family of Lagos relocated to the U.K. in 1988 after a career in advertising. He has been described as one of the most influential Christian artists in Nigeria.
Today, Browne recalled his childhood desire to be a great artist and a strange encounter with an artist whose name he would not remember but inspired what he describes as "main catalyst in his artistic journey: "I asked him, 'what does it take to become a good artist?" he replied,
"Start drawing everyday". So I did and never stopped since".