Saturday 18 May 2013

Interrogating social media in Orimoloye’s 'Oju'

By Tajudeen Sowole
THE social media are becoming irresistible part of everyday life. Little wonder the artist, Gbenga Orimoloye, in his latest show, goes a little further to probe into people’s increasing devotion to these media.

In the show, the artist draws inference from his rich Yoruba background, where the eye is seen as an essential part of communication process.  

Titled Oju (Eye), the solo show just held at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, attempts to deconstruct and interrogate infotech and the social media, giving prominence to their role in making communication easier.
Face-book and Realbook (oil on board, 2013) by Gbenga Orimoloye
Though Orimoloye, who is resident in the UK, says technology is yet to meet up with the premium placed on eye-to-eye contact, he agrees on the fecund “fascination with these socio-cultural developments” within the context of the generational shift in the way people communicate.

In one of the works, Face-book and Realbook (oil on board, 2013)  – faceless figures – the artist places two medium of accessing information on the spot:  someone concentrates on a laptop and the other person with legs crossed, reading from a book.   

With this work, Orimoloye seems to be saying that, though the popular social media, Facebook, and other similar media, are synonymous with info tech devices, they derive their origin from the traditional synergy between a reader’s face and a book.

In highlighting the level of attention people place on their hand-held devices to socialise, the artist captured typical example in Face-booking While Walking, a two figural painting which explains that the trend knows no class or gender.

In the same context, he argues that with a critical and penetrative look “at a person’s face, you realise that, rather than the real person, what you are communicating with is an interface”. And being a representational artist, largely of figurative genre, Orimoloye sees face as “a landscape”. Features of landscapes or streetscapes such as valleys, mountains, and other sceneries, he explains, “can all be present in a face, allegorically”.

In the last three years, Orimoloye has been taking a break from his U.K. base to have shows in Nigeria, using impasto canvas with largely Nigerian social themes. In fact, the title of his last solo shows: Iwa, a passion to stress resilient African values in the Diaspora and Ona, his thoughts on life as a journey, indicate that the artist is at home in creative context.

Holding on to his traditional painting value, he links the Oju and his past themes, rendering eye contact pieces as well as figural in his thought of highly predictive impressionistic, but timeless strokes.

For every work of Orimoloye that appears like a repeat of the past – mostly in the female figures – something is imbedded that suggests resilience of his palette knife movement.

Elsewhere, the vibrancy of his work was noticed when a Florida, US-based publishing house sourced his work for illustrations of publications, which included that of the late Chinua Achebe.
To this extent, the artist sees info tech and the Internet as a great asset. “The US-based publishers saw my work via the Internet and got in touch with me. This is one of the benefits of Internet”.  

And as the African art landscape is gradually imbibing radical contemporary texture, Orimoloye is unshaken. He leans on the relativity of art, arguing that “if you can defend whatever you are doing, so be it”.

Aside his last two shows in Nigeria, Orimoloye, who trained at Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos has shown abroad in such galleries as Maria Assumpta Centre, Kensington, London, 1998 and The 198 Gallery, Herne Hill, London in 1998 among several other shows. 


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