By Tajudeen Sowole
As ten artists trained at the Universal Studios of Art, Iganmu Lagos exposes to works to mainstream art space, a new window into one of Nigeria's oldest group studios beckons, but in an old frame.
One of the works from Nuggets, Abdullahi Haliru’s Quiet Moment
When the chairman and one of the founders of the studios Bunmi Babatunde - while presenting the artists during a preview - said they (the Nuggets artists) "are seen from the eyes of the studios’ founders," his argument synced with the works on display. He added: "over the years, they have imbibed the professionalism of the founders."
While most of the works, understandably, appear like the replicas of paintings and sculptures from the signatures of the studios’ masters like Abiodun Olaku, Babatunde and Bisi Fakeye, few others show traces of creative independence.
The Universal Studios, situated within the vast land of the National Theatre premise is no doubt a prominent resource centre for young artists from the formal and informal trainings across Nigeria for the past two decades. Its reputation as a fountain of standard on the Nigerian art landscape would be sustained by the shades of artists bred.
However, producing tomorrow’s masters and new faces of the studios is not as much as sacrosanct as the quality of the artists. "For us to ask the artists selected for the Nuggets show to come out into the public as a group, we have confidence in them," Olaku assured.
While collection and art appreciation space of Lagos art is expanding, the signatures are not exactly keeping pace with the expansion; young artists, are increasingly replicating the masters’ identity. Such mimicking, Olaku agreed, are not hidden, even among the Nuggets. But he predicted that "as time goes on they will define their identity."
Mentorship comes in various challenges. The exhibiting Universal Studios artists have evolved “through proper supervision,” Monday Akhidue explained.
And the Mydrim Gallery as the studios’ choice to show Nuggets appears like a deliberate one. Mydrim had shown the founding members and other leaders in group exhibitions. Curator at Mydrim, Mrs Sinmidele Adesanya recalled how the studios emerged in the late 1980's when the founding members rented space at the National Theatre, Iganmu.
“Over the years, many young artists went on professional pilgrimage to this rented space which eventually became a hub for artists and art lovers.”
As a gallery that has been tracking the artists since 1995 when the founding members and others members formally registered the studios, Mydrim noted that the group have been assisting young artists, “usually with limited resources to develop their talent.”
And on Nuggets, Adesanya explained:that it “aims to showcase the exceptional works of the young artists and the high level of professional training available at the Universal Studios.”
Supporting their skills with few literary statements, the Nuggets of Universal Studios of Arts show how prepared they are to face the world.
Haliru: All men are born with different abilities to impact their environment. I believe that the creative ability to produce beautiful art is a gift of providence.
Joe Jim: For me, it has always been about ‘leaving my footprints on the sand of time’.
Efosa: Art offers me a unique pedestal for personal projection, realization and fulfillment. Empowerment and prosperity are added benefits.
Nwagbara: Art for me is a way of life, an art we must all learn to appreciate, be you an artist or not and in the process leave a legacy worthy of acknowledgment and emulation by coming generations.
Orojie: Creativity is from the Almighty, to excel is Grace, self-belief and commitment.
Olusola: My work is fundamentally inspired by the natural and induced dynamism of my environment and nature at large.
Niyi: God has made us in His image; likewise, he has shared His talent to few, among them I found myself.
Salako: My art is an embodiment of thought and process, premise on passion, dedication and vision.
Oyewole: Work hard in silence, let success make the noise.
Olukola: God is the greatest Artist and we only imitate Him; it only makes sense that the Artist gets closer to Him.