Friday 9 August 2013

Redirecting Matter with Balogun, the Scandinavian connection

By Tajudeen Sowole

About 72 hours after sculptor, Adeola Balogun’s solo art exhibition titled Soundspiration, opened at Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi Lagos, the artist also commenced work on another project Matter Redirected in Uttersberg, Sweden, as workshops and exhibitions which lasted for two months.

Just back in Lagos two months after redirecting his Matter, Balogun shared his experience at a small gathering hosted by the facilitator of the Swedish trip, Quintessence, Park View Estate {formerly at Falomo}, Ikoyi, Lagos. 

Viewed in soft copies, Balogun’s works from the Matter Redirected project is an apparent continuation of his conservation themes as most of the works, in metal and drawings, stress the artist’s recently-found passion for animals that have the characteristics of strength. 
Adeola Balogun with one his works Tamed and a Swede admirer during his residency in Sweden.

Shortly after participating in an art exhibition organised by a Lagos-based conservation group, few years ago, Balogun, a Senior lecturer in Yaba College of Technology{Yabatech}, Lagos, suddenly developed interest in depicting bull and some species in the bird family, But with the Swedish trip, equestrian subjects seems to have found a wider space in his themes.

The central theme of the Swedish workshop and exhibition, he says, is all about “giving another life to discarded things”. Over the past four years, the artist has explored materials such as shredded rubber from tyres in creating sculptural works that links waste, recycling and environmental as well as social metaphor.

In Sweden, his thoughts on redirecting matter, he explais, were expressed in “14 metal sculptures, 18 drawings for one show and 14 sculptures, 16 drawings for another”.

Between the two animals, Balogun’s renditions in metal and drawing stress the combined strength and elegance of horse while the crude, perhaps, bestial behavioural of the bull seems to challenge and stretch the artist’s skills. Though in metal, a close up of a horse’s head titled The Wild One, for example exudes the artist’s drawing skill; much like the skeletal frames of the animal. But with Tamed, the equestrian theme gets a full size representation in patterned and textured look. For the bull, quite a number of drawings, for example, a piece he titled Veteran, explain the aggressiveness of the animal.

During Adeola Balogun's Matter Redirected at Uttersberg, Sweden

In 2011, Balogun had used the bull as a driving force of his central theme in the solo art exhibition Ants and Giants. Then, he fronted the bull, in series, as a metaphor for possible revolt of the people against any oppressive regime.

And the effort of Quintessence is quite commendable; in Nigerian art scene where artist hardly get support from art galleries beyond providing venues for exhibition. In fact, Quintessence’s commitment in promoting Nigerian artists outside the country predates Balogun’s Matter Redirected. Quintessence had, in 2007 sponsored similar trip for artist, Kunle Adeyemi as well as supported a group of ceramists, all to Sweden. The exchange between Quintessence and Sweden dates back to the visit of Swede artist, Eva Zetterval to Lagos in 2008.

The curator of the gallery, Moses Ohiomokhare, while noting that artists need to showcase their work abroad, discloses that Balogun’s trip has been jointly financed by Sweden. "This is being funded by Quintessence, Astley Gallery at Uttersberg with the support of the Nigerian Embassy in Stockholm Sweden”.

He explains that the exposure of the artist’s work “has become necessary to open up this prolific artist to research and new techniques in his field of study”.

According to the curator, Balogun’s  exhibitions in Sweden started in Trollhattan, on June 1, and on 29 moved to Astley Gallery, Uttersberg.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            On inspiration, Balogun notes that an artist must, naturally, “be moved” by passion to adequately represent a “perceived objects or scenes either on a flat surface or on a three dimensional Format”.

Though Balogun discloses that the workshop aspect of the project was not fully realised, the entire trip, Ohiomokhare explains, offered the artist opportunity to use the exhibitions “as a moving testament of the creative skill of the Nigerian artist and to promote our culture and capabilities”. 

For the artist, his Swedish trip also yielded an offer to show in the U.S. before the end of the year.

The Nigerian Ambassador to the Scandinavian countries, Benedict Onochie Amobi, who is based in Stockholm was the special guest at the opening of the exhibitions, Balogun said.

The artist’s last solo show in Nigeria, Soundspiration, which opened a day before he traveled to Sweden brings a musical tone into his art of imploring discarded materials. Some of the works, produced from shredded rubber, rendered in life size figural combines musical instruments.

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