By Tajudeen Sowole
For the second time between November last year and now, painter, Lekan Onabanjo returns to the art exhibition circuit for another solo show, pushing his Alley Series, a new style in streetscape, into the non-art regular space.
Last March, Onabanjo showed a new body of work titled Transitions in which he had a mixed of the Alley series and other new forms. But his return with another set of works titled Celebrationz, opening from December 13- 21, 2013 at Sofitel Hotel, Moorehouse, Ikoyi, Lagos is not just the artist’s effort; it’s in partnership with one of his patrons, Tayo Ajimoko.
A painting from Lekan Onabanjo’s Alley Series, showing in Celebrationz
Onabanjo notes that for every period of his art, from the rustic rooftop to houses on stilts and now Alley series, appreciation of his work increases. The new show, Celebrationsz, he discloses “is entirely, Ajimoko’s idea.
What is a ‘z’ in Celebrationz all about? Ajimoko explains during a chat on phone that the ‘z’ added is important, having the exhibition in the end of the year, when most likely some people would use the word at other shows. “So, to make this exhibition different, we add the ‘z’”. More importantly, the exhibition, he adds, affords people to rejoice with the artist and share “the spirit that accompanies Onabanjo’s works while you count your blessings for the year”.
Ajimoko is not new to Onabanjo’s art; he has been following the artist’s periods of over a decade. He recalls the artist’s Makoko and Ibadan periods as memorable, noting that “the Alley is a departure from his past styles”. And the value of the Alley, he argues transcends the Nigerian or Lagos streetscape. “The Alley series take me back to different places. I could relate it to paths in Lagos or places in the Middle East”.
Apart from the Alley, Onabanjo returns to architecture, but this time, of Gothic or Portuguese designs still standing in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Unlike the smooth painting brush movements seen in the rustic rooftops and cracked walls of Ibadan period, the old house’ peeling paints and falling layers in the Abeokuta series are depicted by Onabanjo imploring impressionistic technique to depict.
For Onabanjo, the partnership brings double value: promoting his Alley series and extending the appreciation of his art beyond the regular art gallery space. He argues that artists and prmoters need to move out of the already known art venues and “take art to the people who hardly find time to visit galleries”. His belief that artists are not reaching out enough to win more collectors led to the idea of showing at Sofitel Hotel. He added that “My work of art often leaves its source of inspiration and becomes an object of admiration in itself”'.
In A Foreword of Celebrationz’ catalogue, Ajimoko writes: “It takes a considerable amount of energy and effort to mine the creative treasures of the human soul and the world is a canvass to our imagination both in painting and printing. What artists of all creeds and persuasions do on a constant basis is give vent to their imaginations in oil, acrylic, water, mixed media and all other media in between.
“The artscape in Nigeria and indeed the world is currently at a point of inflexion and the boundaries between creativity and banality is blurring. The artist has as one of his duties the charge to push the boundaries beyond border and open new vistas for discussion. The capacity of art to arrest the attention, shock the sensibilities and provoke eureka moments have been experienced variously in the worlds of architecture, design, fashion and painting”.
The exhibition is supported by Zapah Rield Ltd., a group with which Ajimoko has an affiliation. The patron boasts that the company is committed to supporting and promoting “art, designs, ideas and discuss” of African interests “on a different trajectory from the usual”.
Onabanjo was born over four decades ago in western Nigeria. He studied fine arts at the Auchi Polytechnic and has over 20 years of post-qualification studio practice. He has held several joint and solo exhibitions both in Nigeria and around the world.
He is acclaimed for his mastery of the water colour medium but is equally comfortable with oil and acrylic. He has dealt for a greater part of his career on the exploration of the issues of the fringes of the Nigerian society in his works; as well topical issues relating to rural-urban subject matters. He is especially skilled in the use of light and reflections as dramatic elements in his compositions.