Saturday 29 September 2012

A Canvas… Olotu’s painterly homage

By Tajudeen Sowole
About 25 years in documentary art, painter Oyerinde Olotu, who is known for rendering places and people of old on canvas, pays homage to Lagos.

The artist’s choice of Lagos in the theme This Lagos… A Canvas though creates a curious moment, but his familiar rendition hardly changes, so suggest some of the works previewed ahead of his solo art exhibition opening at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, Lagos on October 1. It will run till October 8, 2102.

As unique as Olotu’s monochrome identity is on canvas, the fragility of a predictive style and technique is a challenge, which was distilled from some of his recent exhibitions. However, quite a number of works from This Lagos…A Canvas reveal that indeed, the artist can still spring surprises.

At the same venue, and in October last year, Olotu showed Cities, People and Countryside, a body of work that treated diverse subject matters across the country. For his latest outing, he stated that the show is more significant because it’s the first time a whole body of work will be dedicated to “Lagos, where I had my childhood and built my art.”  From referenced captures of colonial era architectures and post-independence streetscapes, to the ongoing urban rehabilitation in Lagos, Olotu articulated his passion for continuous documentation of the state.

He insisted his canvas is not likely to change as “I take special interest in history, which has influenced me in documentary art.”
Colonial Residence, a painting from Oyerinde Olotu’s exhibition This Lagos… A Canvas… 
FROM an aerial view, Olotu’s palette adds beauty to the houses on stilts titled The Makoko Series, a depiction of recently demolished fragile structures on Lagos Mainland waterside. And had the occupiers seen Olotu’s rendition, perhaps, they could have used the splendid piece to support their claims of comforts in squalour as the artist’s creative use of light and shade depicts.

Some of the works such as Colonial Residence, Hospital, The Premier Convoy under the pre and independence section of the works offer an insight into the trend in infrastructure and fashion of the eras.

And comes two worlds of contemporaneity in a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) depiction, A New Lagos and the slum of central Lagos Island, Isale Eko. In A New Lagos is a familiar rendition, which looks like a series from the artist’s last show, Cities, People and Countryside. 

Art of documenting places and people on canvas could be as delicate as intellectually tasking, particularly where copyright of references is involved. For Olotu, it’s about adding extra creative content. “I get my references, then  compose and recompose, juxtapose where necessary and then balance up my composition to get my final picture,” he explained. Part of such composite, it has been noticed, is the inclusion of some odd figures and colours, particularly in the architectural and streetscape of memorable references.

And still on the theme, the artist commended his wife,  for being the inspiration “when she told me that ‘you have had a greater part of your life in Lagos, why not dedicate your next show to Lagos?” 

In another realm of memorable art, the artist is also exhibiting one of his past works, a piece from his period of common painting. Rendered in colours and of Ikorodu Road capture, the work, he disclosed “was a gift to a friend 25 years ago.” He said he saw the work recently and could not take his eyes off it. “So, I paid him and collected the work back.” 

Among the works are those exhibited during his first solo show at the now rested Viv Gallery in 2001. He was Overall Best Student when he graduated in 1981.

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