Saturday 15 March 2014

For feminist, Oyesanya-Ayaoge, a Symbiosis return six years after

By Tajudeen Sowole

Increasingly, the canvases of some female artists are being populated with gender-based themes as the newest addition from painter, Bunmi Oyesanya-Ayaoge's palette roves through some of the contentious aspects of women’s styles and living.

From fashion, gossips, to the reality of aging, Oyesanya-Ayaoge's feminism thoughts are expressed in her second solo art exhibition titled Symbiosis, which opens from March 22 to 29, 2014 at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.

And when the first series of works she presented during the preview of Symbiosis focus plus size ladies, an impression of personalising the theme was created. "No," she protested. "Focusing the fashion trends of the big size ladies is just a concept I love; it has nothing to do with my built."

Bold and Beautiful Fashionistas by Bunmi-Oyesanya Ayaoge

Ladies on the large side, particularly in briefs or tightening wears, are enough attractions, even in simple representation or realism form. And stylizing the depiction in burlesque or caricature as Oyesanya-Ayaoge puts them on canvas adds more theatrics. She calls them Bold and Beautiful Fashionistas."

Yes, the big ladies in fashion statements are on the increase at social events and on the walkways on the streets, doing the morning walk in sporting wears. From mini skirts to really short knickers and near loose straps, Oyesanya-Ayaoge captures the bold ladies as familiar as they flaunt their weight. She detests the fact that "so much attention has been given to the slim ladies," to the neglect of the "fashionable big size women."

Continuing her highlights of ladies' characteristics in another series titled Breaking News, two ladies, almost neck-to-neck live nothing else to imagination, but “gossips."

While aging worries cut across the genders, the graphical representation of what Oyesanya-Ayaoge titled Symbiotic Metamorphosis stresses the more eventful, but faster aging stages of the softer gender. Still in the stylized and burlesque rendition, the metamorphosis takes of from a schoolgirl preparing to be tomorrow’s elegant woman, moves into an adolescent, full womanhood and starts raising family. And from the middle-age to the frail old lady, Oyesanya-Ayaoge’s woman still would not give up on “the fashionista character" she was in the active period, several decades ago.

Irrespective of choice of career, the challenges and demand of meeting societal value, sometimes come into conflict with the personal and professional aspiration of a woman. However, for most women, the traditional values of African woman such as raising a family remain sacrosanct.

Interestingly, the artist, whose professional and family lives have thrown up similar challenges come as an example of how to sacrifice one for the other. She had her last major and solo outing in 2008 when she showed Artforms at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos. “The break was unavoidable; taking care of the family front is as important as creating art,” she argued. Six years is not exactly long, but in art it could me a huge gap between the artist and the art. “I was never cut off from the art during the six years,” she quipped. Her works have been featured in several group exhibitions just as “I always worked at home, squeezing out time from the children to sketch and paint.” 

Oyesanya-Ayaoge’s quality of time stolen from the family and invested in the body of work for Symbiosis would face the test of her followers when the exhibition opens. 

When she had Artforms in 2008, strong skills in illustrations and high sense of humour were some of the assets she brought onto the canvas. And the fashion themes within the context of women are not exactly new in the artist’s vocabulary. For example, in Artform, she had Women of Substance,

However, in about 40 works expected for the show, eclectic mix comes to the rescue to prevent a possible bore of repetitive themes, even in the styles and technique. Oyesanaya-Ayaoge therefore dips into her other background of stints with Universal Studios of Artists, in Iganmu, Lagos, bringing in landscapes such as Harmattan Haze, Tranquility and Lagos Lagoon.

And with her supposedly up-dated Artist Statement, which takes off on an inspirational note, the past six years may just be part of what she noted as “every aspects of life is a unique definition of human existence.”

On inspiration, her journey into the world of feminists must have been influenced by her first contact with the public when, In 2001, she made her debut in a group show tiled Feminine  Touch, at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) Iganmu, Lagos. It was a year before she bagged her Higher National Diploma (HND) in Fine Art from Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State.

Oyesanya-Ayaoge’s bio lists, among others, shows such as group exhibitions titled Spain Through Nigerian Art at the Spanish Embassy, and at Commonwaealth Arts and Crafts, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London, UK as some of her past outings.

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