Saturday, 9 June 2012

‘Naturalism is Nothing, But the Truth’



By Tajudeen Sowole
 As art keeps expanding in scope, even beyond the imagination of the early generations of avant-garde art movements, the ongoing group art exhibition titled Nothing, But The Truth at Mydrim Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos revisits the resilience of naturalism.
 And that the exhibition, which was earlier scheduled for three weeks when it opened almost a month ago, has been extended to run for another one week exposes the undying character in representation of the art of naturalism.
  At the opening, the passion, and perhaps the anxiety to protect what has been referred to as “basics of art” was not missing. For these artists, who still hold on strongly to naturalism in this age when the dynamics of art appears to have brought up new media, expanding the scope of creativity beyond the basic rule of drawing and painting, the show could not have come at a better time.
  Expressing Nothing But the Truth are artists whose signatures cut across generations and ratings. They include Kolade Oshinowo, Abiodun Olaku, Bunmi Babatunde, Ebong Ekwere Reuben Ugbine, Abraham Uyovbisere, Patrick Agose, Segun Adejumo, Wallace Ejoh, Umoh Akanimoh, Stanley Dudu, Samuel Ajobiewe, Mufu Apo Oyin, Ebenezer Akinola, Jonathan Jefferson, Abass Kelani, Peju Alatishe, Bede Umeh, Joshua Nmesirionye and Olumide Oresegun.
Sunday Market, by Mufutau Apo-Oyin, oil on canvas, 108 x 77 cm, 2007

 From Oshinowo’s Funke, a portrait of a lady rendered in the artist’s peculiar painting style, to Olaku’s classic identity strengthened in In God We Trust as well as younger generation, Oresegun’s Strong Beans Girl, naturalism or representational is being celebrated.
 However, some observers of the unfolding dynamics in visual arts across the world often warn that art cannot be tied down to draughtsmanship as “art is more of thinking, philosophy.”
   In his respond to this school of thought, Oshinowo noted that conceptuality and creating the work to communicate a philosophy could not be separated. He explained, “Art is draughtsmanship plus creativity; there should be no argument about that. If you are very creative and well grounded as a draughtsman the sky is the limit. These qualities easily manifest in good quality works of art, either abstract or realism”.
  Te retired art teacher at the famous YABATECH, Lagos, however, noted that some artists, particularly the younger ones have been hiding under the so-called wider scope of expression to cover their poor drawing ability. “There seems to be suspicion where there is deficiency in either draughtsmanship or creativity and the artist tries to hide under whatever camouflage.
  “There is the tendency these days for young artists to start looking for the line of least resistance and indulge in installation art, which most times, is so unconvincing. Nothing But the Truth, to my mind, is about excellent draughtsmanship buried in creativity to produce qualitative works”.
  While lamenting the gradual deprivation that the art loving public has faced in the recent years as a result of the dearth of ‘drawing skills of the masters of old’, proprietor of Mydrim Gallery, Ogunsanya argued that those artists who are not good draughtsman, ironically, are getting more attention hiding under abstracts.
  He said, “I don’t have anything against abstract, but artists should have good drawing skill. The skill in drawing and painting makes the masters of old ever great, even though some of them have departed.”
  Ogunsanya assured that as the interest in reviving draughtsmanship increases in Nothing But The Truth, “We would try our best to see that we have a show that emphasises drawing, at least once a year.” 
  And the concept, she disclosed, might settle for Nothing But The Truth as a central theme if it becomes a yearly event.
  In his contribution contained in the catalogue, artist, teacher and critic, Dr. Kunle Filani stressed that “for talents to endure there is need for continuity and long-term relevance.” History, he explained, “keeps reminding us that fads fade away with time.” He, however, argued that it is important to come to terms with the “nuances that propel creativity while assimilating avant-garde experiments.”
  Artists, he warned should be alert to interpret such within the context of individual taste and immediate socio-cultural relevance. Speaking on the evergreen quality of naturalism, Filani stated that “fidelity to nature and the unlimited variety of individual styles that come with naturalism already assure the artist of pecuniary patronage.”
  Works on display indeed support the argument for the beauty in naturalism. For example in Bared And Bearded, Ekwere, again, stresses that he is one of the most gifted sculptors in the art of thumping: bald-head and bush of beard portrait of an unidentified man makes the objects in the painting-dominated show to stand out.
  For Jefferson, who claims that he is one of the beneficiaries of the Mydrim’s yearly pastel shows, said, “drawing is like the skeleton in a body; without it, there is no art, whether it’s abstract or other themes”.
 He recalled, “my passion for drawing led to my emphasis on figures in my last show, though I’m known as a landscape artist”.

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