Saturday 4 January 2014

With Open Studio-1, hidden skills, dilemma of artists come to the fore

By Tajudeen Sowole
WHEN Dr. Kunle Adeyemi led-group of 12 artists hosted art enthusiasts and collectors in Mushin, Lagos, to the 17th century tradition of salon-like show, recently, an interactive event was added to the Nigerian art landscape.

Titled Open Studio-1 and held at Adeyemi’s studio in Mushin, the gathering, which focused on the challenges of Nigerian artists, basically, took a group art exhibition format, different from the two Open Studio events held in Lagos earlier. 

 President of Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Oliver Enwonwu, interior designer, Titi Ogunfere and one of the exhibiting artists during Open Studio-1.

Not exactly clear if there was any record of Open Studio event in Lagos, or indeed, Nigeria, in the past before Victoria Udondian hosted one in April of 2013. Perhaps there were similar events not called Open Studio, but Udondian’s, which hosted colleagues in interactive moment, featured the trajectory of her works and exploits in residencies and exhibitions abroad.

Also, a U.S.-based artist, Victor Ekpuk, who was on Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Foundation (OYASAF) Fellowship, had his Open Studio last November.

According to art historians, the origin of Open Studio dates back to 17th century as a salon in Paris, France, and has, over the centuries took diverse dimensions, from one country to another. For the Adeyemi group, it was an opportunity to drag the immediate inhabitants of the studio as well as other regular followers to share the challenges of artists, and more importantly, appreciate the works of the artists produced under largely inadequate conditions.

Other artists of the Adeyemi-led Open Studio-1 included Tunde Oguntuyo,  Biodun Okemakinde ,  Adetola Adenuga , Lekan Okeshola ,  Aremu Monsuru ,  Femi Awoderu ,  Olushegun Oduyele ,  Bashir Kalejaiye ,  Abiola Adeyemi ,  Dayo Adeyemi ,  Lukmon Jimoh.

Some of the works on display included Okemakinde’s  depiction of the diverse traditional monarchy institutions of Nigeria in an oval piece of  mixed media he titled Kingship; a graphite on cartridge paper and drawing-like capture of a horse’s power titled Strength, by Okeshola; Adenuga’s Deep Thought, a wood sculpture of mixed media, which digs into the strength of the inner minds; and a respite from Abiola in a Voice of Hope,  a painting, deep in the balance of shades and light with covert abstraction.

Others were an aerial perspective from Oduyele, of a Lagos streetscape with its notorious mini yellow buses matted on the night scene to create a subtly illusion of collage; native signs and symbols enhanced by Luqmon’s Oni Gele, creating a an adire fabric and batik effects;  a romantic moment on Kalejaiye’s canvas with Toko Taya, an impressionistic of stylized imageries; surrendering to the dictate of nature in Monsuru’s Mi O Le Wa ku, as the artist puts on to the canvas a resting man on wheel barrow; a mask stylized of beauty in Awoderu’s Sisi Oge; and Dayo Adeyemi’s My View of Ojuwoye, a streetscape of the popular market in the commercial district of Mushin.

Apart from the leader of the group, Adeyemi and maybe two artists, participants of the Open Studio-1 were rarely seen. Some of the, perhaps had the opportunity to exhibit their works in a large group, for the first time. But the gathering, given the richness of the works could have been a show in the art hubs of Lagos and Victoria Islands. And affording art lovers and collectors an opportunity to see the hidden talents, outside the regular art gallery space was perhaps a premium value derived fron an Open Srudio event of this kind.

 One of the exhibiting artists, Oguntuyo recalled that over the years, the studio has trained many artists, some of who are now professionals working full time as artists. The Open Studio show, he explained “is to bring art closer to the people. He added that despite the fact that the studio has been existing for so long, it’s important “to share the passion of the artists with the larger society.”

The Adeyemi-led Open Studio-1 group noted that there are inadequate spaces for artists to showcase their works. The forum, which took Open Studio format and held in a place like Mushin, they explained was deliberate to draw the attention of sympathisers and art lovers to the predicament of artists. The inadequate space, they explained comes with consequences that are not good for the development of art.

 Speaking on behalf of the group, Adeyemi advised artists to usually make plans for shows in advance to create enough ventilation for proper plans. Also, artists, he said, should “explore all outlets available to create space for the exposition of their works.”  He listed alternative spaces such as “personal studio, private viewing, salon shows, self-organized exhibitions, art display to celebrate birthdays, funerals, festivals, special schools, and town or state events,” as some of the areas artists should explore.

Convener of Open Studio-1, Dr Kunle Adeyemi and other exhibiting artists during the opening.

On public gallery-artist relationship, Adeyemi argued that the galleries’ bookings should accommodate exhibitions through the year. “Public galleries should be compelled to make open their space bookings and the types of exhibitions that will run for at least 12 calendar months in advance.” He explained that  such a loaded calendar for galleries would reduce  “manipulation, favouritism and corruption in the area of space management and allocation.”

The crucial role of government, Adeyemi noted, cannot be discounted in the issue of space challenge for artists. He advised that “all the tiers of government should be mandated by law to open at least one exhibition space in their communities.”

 Some of the advised issued at the Open Studio included: revival of the National Endowment Fund for the arts be mandated to prioritize the construction of exhibition display centres and studios; and  schools, colleges and universities should be encouraged to have a place in their communities dedicated solely for the display and sales of art works, books and other souvenirs produced by Nigerian artists.

.Stressing the economic value of arts and culture,, Adeyemi brought in a recent international statistics. “According to a source, The International Federation of Arts and Culture (IFACCA) website reports that the arts are a big contributor to Irish economy, and can derive new jobs. The Arts Council of Ireland reports that 76 million Euro Arts Council funding supports more than 3,000 jobs, generates a turnover of £192 million and sends £54 million directly back to the exchequer in the form of income, VAT and other taxes. They also estimate that the economic impact of the wider arts sector is also greater than anticipated, with a gross added value of £782 million, total expenditure of £1.8 billion, 26,519 jobs and tax revenue of £352 million.”

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