Sunday 20 May 2012

Ona… Orimoloye's metaphor for life’s journey

THOUGH U.K-based painter, Gbenga Orimoloye’s second solo show in the country, in the last one year, shares the three letter Yoruba word of ona with one of the art movements around his theme, however, is sharply different.

Orimoloye’s Ona, which runs for one week at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos opening on May 26, is not on design and aesthetic-based rendition, rather it focuses on ona, the Yoruba word for the journey of life. On this pedestal, he builds his new body of work. He notes, “life on earth can be metaphorically referred to as a journey.”

And graphically, his renditions of some notable roads in the country, particularly in Lagos, explain the artist’s thoughts on the metaphor of roads. The theme also affords him an opportunity to flaunt his familiarity with developments in the city, despite being based in the UK.

Onidiri Meta (Three hairdressers) by Gbenga Orimiloye
  He states that for each road in a man’s life, “there is a representation of where we are or can be at any given moment in time and each serves as a reminder that we will ultimately get to a destination.”

RENDERED in impasto texture, Orimoloye’s paintings either exposes the terrible condition of some of the roads or highlights, covertly, the smooth state of others. This medium gives the artist a wider scope to get his message across.

  For example, McNeill Road, a representational piece on the street leading to Sabo, from the Yaba end, despite the impressionistic style imployed for the panting, shows a well paved and attractive road. On the contrary, another road, Near Ogunlana Drive, a depiction of a Surulere street, also in Lagos, shows a flooded, disorganised environment.

  For Ogunlana and its environs, and indeed the entire Surulere, works like this show the level of degradation this area has sunk into in the last three decades. Being a coastal city, floods are though almost a natural part of most Lagos, but the chaotic commercial and near slum state of the former middle-class haven is an example in government’s poor policy implementation on urban planning.

  And that the painter finds a part of Surulere such as an adjoining street near Ogunlana Drive to analogise his concept of rough road, clearly stresses how urban planning has failed in the state. However, Orimoloye has cheery news; at the end of a bad road, there is a relief.
McNeil Road, Yaba by Gbenga Orimooye
   “Incidentally a wide and paved or desirable looking road can lead us where we do not want to be, while a dusty and rough one can cause us to end up where we are ecstatic,” he says.
  Orimoloye observes that as a nation, Nigeria has to decide how a chosen road will lead to the desired goal. He cites example of f fuel subsidy removal protests across the country in January, noting that the people started on a good journey. This, he argues, “however, did not end well, because it was not properly focused; so, the people accepted N97 per litre against their demand.” 
Onigele by Gbenga Orimoloye

  From Iya ni Wura (Mother is Golden) at Didi Museum, in 2002, to Iwa (Character) at Nike Art Gallery, last year, and now Ona, Orimoloye has the belief that art themes are agents of change.

 Largely, his native Yoruba origin comes in as part of the artist’s strength, even in a contemporary world. For example, in Iwa and Ona, the elegance of women in gele (head-wear) will not stop receiving prominence in his thumping. Works such as Onidiri and Onigele series show the artist’s love for the native value in women fashion.

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