Friday 20 July 2012

Dale’s soiree… fillip for art appreciation

By Tajudeen Sowole
 A 40-year old relationship between artholic, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi and artist, David Dale, found expression in a soiree organised in celebration of the latter.
  Held at a new venue, Grillo Pavilion Annexe, Ikoyi, Lagos, the 30 works on display – new and others on loan – stressed consistency and loyalty as two strong forces that sustain the chord of relationship between an artist and a collector.
  Gbadamosi started by taking visitors down memory lane, sharing what appeared like a blend of the artist’s philosophy with an eclectic young interest of the collector in what would be an uncontrollable habit in art appreciation.
  Although Dale expressed his thoughts on the soiree when he read his ‘Artist Statement’ shortly after Gabadamosi made a speech, his works on display on the two floors of the pavilion filled whatever was missing in the one page statement.  Nearly over 29 media, in which the artist had worked throughout his 45-year career, were represented.
  Gbadamosi recalled how he first encountered Dale’s work during a soiree in 1971/72, when he saw a piece titled, Tiger in the Cornfield. He described the work as the toast of Dale’s works,” noting that it “symbolised early icon of his oeuvre.”
  In Dale’s career, the collector noted deep etchings as the middle period. The artist more known for his ecstatic use of beads, according Gbadamosi, has taken the medium to an aristocratic level with subtlety,  “yet enchanting and blossoming in unsurpassed visual effects that is now recognised as the quintessential Dale’s beadworks.”
  And, in appreciating Dale’s new body of works along with the old, a brief look at his last solo exhibition titled, Update, held at Quintessence Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos in 2007, might just be of importance. Most often, artists of Dale’s stature – having established strong signatures over the decades – hardly make radical changes in medium and style. For Dale, such identity must keep evolving, yet within the confine of his defined brand. In Update, for example, Multiplicity Makes for Strength, a piece depicting nine hands placed one after the other to form a ring round a moon-like beam, exudes beauty in the finger nails highlighted by acid. Indeed, the strength of the work is more pronounced in the glow highlight of the encircled beam.
  Five years after, the Gbadamosi-organised soiree, again brings out the vintage Dale in the new works, which, instructively, are dated 2012. In fact, he disclosed that “Dale, to my surprise, produced these works at short notice.” Some of these include foils such as ‘King Tortoise’, ‘Thought’ and ‘Bikini’ as well as a beadwork, ‘Peace’.
David Herbert Dale (left) presenting one of his works, a foil titled King Tortoise to the founder of Grillo Pavilion, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi and Mrs Gnadamosi during the soiree organised in his honour… recently.
   Dale appeared more passionate about the soiree, when he noted, “I have been working up to six hours extra just to get the works ready for this event”. From about 30 works on display, 21 were produced in 2012 despite the artist’s fragile state of health.
  Ahead of the Soiree, during the preview, attention of the Grillo Pavilion team was drawn to a possible health hazard from emission of some of the materials used by most artists who engage in heavy mixed media as Dale does. The artist agreed that there could be some serious health implication using some of the materials, but he was quick to add, “even overseas, alternatives to most of the materials were yet to be found”.
  The curator, Mike Omoighe said the best anyone could do in the meantime was to manage the level of exposure to the perceived dangerous materials, noting that virtually every situation in life has it’s risk. Even “the eba (cassava flour) we eat could cause health issues,” he argued.  
  And the health issue would not just go away, as one of the donors to the show and proprietor of Treasure House, Omooba Olasehinde Odimayo, in his contribution to the catalogue comments on Dale’s health, stating: “the deterioration of his health, in the last five years or so is attributable to hazards arising from some of the materials used in his major commissions”.
  However, the depth of Dale’s work, particularly in the beads and acid etching may just be enough joy for the artist and his admirers, hence the essence of the soiree. Dale, 64, has worked with about 23 media.
  In sharing his philosophy, Dale writes in the catalogue: “A minute success pays for the failure of the years; everything yields to success, even grammar. The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy”.
  And when Gbadamosi explained how the soiree represents the lifetime achievement of Dale “whose remnant of energy has not in any shade diminished his valuable creativity,” works such as Footprints, Traditional Dancers (Collection of Gbadamosi), Dignity of Labour (from Odimayo) and Two Doves (courtesy of Sammy Olagbaju) epitomise the accolades showered on the celebrant.
  The Director-General of National Gallery of Art (NGA), represented by his Special Adviser, Mufu Onifade, commended Gbadamosi for reminding us of the masters who pioneered notable areas of contemporary Nigerian art.
  For Gbadamosi, the soiree was a commitment of the resource centre, Yusuf Grillo Pavilion, which he established in 2009 in honour of another master. The Grillo Pavilion has held three editions of art fiesta at its headquarter in Kunbi Haven, Ikorodu, Lagos, and has featured four artists in each year so far: Grillo, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Demas Nwoko and Prof. Uche Okeke, all of the old Zaria School of Arts, Science and Technology (now Ahmadu Bello University), Zaria.
  Noting that Grillo Pavilion, through the yearly art fiesta would not be able to accommodate all notable artists “on the queue waiting to be celebrated,” Omoighe disclosed that it had been decided to enlarge the scope. He said from next year, the Grillo Pavilion would start its resource programmes in such areas as “art education and skills workshops, bringing art programmes to the heart of Lagos”. He said many artists acknowledge the Soiree as an “ingenuity of Grillo Pavilion for blazing a new course, a delight for art connoisseurs”.
  Since July 1967 when he made his debut in Lagos, Dale has had about 70 exhibitions. He studied art at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, and was the graphic consultant, African Architectural Technology Exhibition for FESTAC ’77 and also taught Visual Communication for 13 years, at the Department of Architecture, University of Lagos.
  Dale is a recipient of medals such as gold medal (1964), silver cup, 1965; second place, National Festival of Arts 1965; Human Education Institute of Africa, formerly of Dar es Salaam; First Class Star Award, for Contribution to contemporary art in Africa; Diamond publication bronze medal for contribution to the development of art in Nigeria.

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