Friday 2 August 2013

Ogiugo, dreams big market for Nigerian art abroad

By Tajudeen Sowole
Documenting factors that have led to the recent, perhaps, unprecedented increase in appreciation of contemporary Nigerian art, at home and abroad will be incomplete without mentioning the contributions of some individual home-based artists. 

One of such artists whose managerial connection is invaluable to the promotion of Nigerian art in this context is painter and former president of Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA), Edosa Ogiugo.  Specifically, Ogiugo has been a link between a recent exploit in the U.K market by the professional body.

When Ogiugo emerged president in 2008 and was mandated to lead the affairs of the guild for two years, the self-task of taking the art of members beyond the shores of Nigeria appeared to be his priority. Although his effort did not come to fruition during his tenure of two terms, but he ensured that the process and the eventual realisation of the dream outlived his tenure. 

Arguably one of the frontline painters in the middle generation of old Nigerian masters and emerging artists, Ogiugo had always shown passion in pushing for a new awakening for Nigeria art. His long relationship and experience with the U.K dates back to his, pre-GFA membership. This much became an asset during his tenure as president.
Edosa Ogiugo, during one of GFA’s group shows

As a member of The Fine Art Trade Guild, U.K., Ogiugo, though based in Lagos, has maximised his experience to; reflect so much quality on his canvas as well as shared managerial knowledge with his local guild. Currently shuttling between Lagos and Port Harcourt, Rivers State, holding him down for a cha during his short and “hurried” visit to Lagos recently was not a possible attempt.
He recalled his effort that contributed to the rising profile of Nigerian art. “It’s always a gradual process and patient build-up”, he said during a chat via the Internet shortly after his last trip to Lagos. His membership of the U.K guild, he explained “has exposed me to foreign artists in the art business.” .He noted the importance of “quality of work one must emphasise” as crucial to breaking into the international scene. 
 Shortly after GFA made its formal presence known on the Nigerian art scene in 2008, it generated controversy bothering on its suspicious formation as a parallel professional body to challenge the Society of Nigerian {SNA}. The heated atmosphere then soon disappeared as the guild brought on to the Lagos scene a fresh breath. It stated with the group’s maiden art exhibition titled Thrshold, held at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos same year and followed it up with an induction ceremony described as ‘unique’ art event ever organised with ‘high taste and class’ in Nigeria.

In 2010, the guild added another show Crux of Matter to mark Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary. By the time, Ogiugo completed his tenure as president in 2011, plans were already in progress to take the guild for its maiden art exhibition in the U.K. Eventually held in early this year this year, at Cork, London, the exhibition titled Transcending Boundaries, under the promotion of U.K-based Aabru Art, a longtime admirer of Ogiugo’s art.  According to sources present at the opening of the show, it offered art connoisseurs in the U.K. to see such a large gathering of contemporary African art. Indeed, the visitors might have been stunned by the fact that African art has been viewed from the ancient windows for a long time just as ‘conceptual’ or ‘contemporary’ art has blurred the real creativity in art of the continent. One of the Nigerian visitors to the show explains that prior to the show, the African art that a community of largely white audience around the venue of the show ‘knew are art with close links with ancient or naïve expression in naïve forms’ a source discloses.

As laudable as the effort of the GFA show was, it’s also disturbing that in the 21st century, some sections of the west still see African art through the prism of ancient rendition. This suggests that contemporary Nigerian artists, despite the high quality, which their art exude have not been spreading out enough in Europe. Ogiugo traced the misconception to long years of artists’ laid-back attitude. But he was however quick to note that the entire state of the nation, in the past three decades, did not encourage art appreciation as expected, despite relative effort and resilience of artists. “The gap between the state and the citizens has been huge”, he argued and suggested that “we need a structured system”. But artists cannot wait forever for government to get it right, so some spiritual force is now coming to the rescue.  “Thank God for his favor and angels He has positioned for us to achieve this breakthrough.”

From the Horse series of Edosa Ogiugo

About five years ago, Nigerian and other African artists started getting attention via the London-based auction house, Bonhams’ yearly sales, Africa Now. The last two editions of the auction had featured special sections for GFA members. What is the chance of Nigerian artists sustaining their gradual romance with the U.K art market? Again, Oguigo tapped into his experience and understanding of the U.K market, perhaps, as a member of the Trades Guild.  “It’s a very fresh start, which has great potentials if we can have collaborations from public and private efforts .I mean there are models we can adapt so we can have a natural flow”. 
Despite being in the age of contemporary art contents, it does appear that traditional rendition such as painting and sculptural works in the regular formats, these creation of art people are familiar with  are being excluded, gradually, from 'contemporary practice'.  In fact, the changing art landscape suggests that contemporaneity or conceptual art is being redefined by the trend, which, most often gets artists exploring some unusual materials in creating art. Typically, most of such art are best suitable for museum pieces as against the regular collections.

For Ogiugo, who is among the artists holding on tightly to the traditional form of creating art, the “the Nigerian art space needs proper education /interaction”. He stressed that such forum will offer an opportunity to “expose those who are manipulating” the public’s perception of art.

A piece of art, he argued, should be self-explanatory and not be confined to or determined by the volumes or “sermon” the artist can write.  “Think of what they create, when nobody is there to explain it”. He asked: “can it stand the test of time as real art?”  He described a section of the Nigerian art community as being “”gifted in urban planning skills and interior decoration contents”, and advised such artists to define their identity and “not deceive themselves”.

Arguably, on the Nigeria’s art landscape, Oguigo possesses one of the most resilient strokes in painting, rendering themes such as dance and equestrian figures. Having explored the streetscapes in the 1990s, the last ten years of his canvas appears to be shared, more loudly, between frenzy lady dancers, mostly in traditional Nigerian attires and the strength of horse. While the dances are the artist’s expression of highlighting and promoting the cultural values of Nigerian women, the equestrian, he explained, satisfies his admiration of the strength of horses across species. 

“Horse is sure a strong, powerful, functional, but intelligent animal”. More importantly, horse, he noted, is “a good drill for tasking an artist’s draftsmanship skill”. He described horses’ movement as graceful and elegant such that they are irresistible to capture for the canvas. “I just love to capture those moments “. In giving impressionism a broader texture, Ogiugo’s art emphasizes the strength of lines, particularly in his capturing of highly mobile subjects. He traced his passion for drawing horses “to 1990, when I visited extended family members of my wife in Sapele, Delta State”.  He recalled how he was “challenged” to drawing and painting horses two years later “by Roman Akar”. But  over  20 years after, Oguigo who graduated from the foremost Nigeria’s art school , Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, disclosed that there is still much to explore in drawing and painting horses. “I don’t think I have done my best yet of the horse subject”. 
Art galleries are losing more spaces, and artists, particularly those at the Universal Studios of Arts as well as others inside the Annex wings of National Theatre, Lagos are also endangered. Is art not really business enough or capable of adding values to the economy, given the drastic changes in urban renewal? Ogiugo who has his studio inside the National Theatre Annex noted that the disconnect can be corrected by upgrading of facilities in public space. He however urged that “professionals like us need to be heard by those who think they are doing us a favor, so we can have a more robust or better planned urban centers”.

Apparently referring to the recent issue about re-development of the National Theatre’s mass land, Oguigo challenged the government on the need to make the process an all-inclusive one. “They pretend to want to restore the National Arts Theatre space without carrying stake holders along.
“For the records I am not against restoration of the master plan but bring it to the open or can a Hotel be Nigeria's national theatre? Another Government magic!

No comments:

Post a Comment