Sunday 1 June 2014

U.K-based Orimoloye returns with Aso, urges passion for leadership

By Tajudeen Sowole
Having featured on the Lagos art scene of the last three years consistently, U.K-based artist, Gbenga Orimoloye's canvas returns with fashion analogy to Nigeria's floods of leadership issues.
Gbenga Orimoloye’s Rhapsodies in Colours.
Between 2011 and last year, Orimoloye has sustained a yearly solo exhibition showing with such themes Iwa, at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, in 2011; Ona and Oju at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos in 2012 and last year. And that all his last four exhibitions are three-letter-words, and in native Yoruba, are conscious and focused thematic choices, perhaps aimed at promoting mother tongue.

  Currently in the country again, his new body of work titled Aso, which opens tomorrow and ending May 30, 2014 at Terra Kulture, explains the penchant of Nigerians for gorgeous and elaborate dressings.  The artist prays that the passion being incurred in Nigerian fashions be equally invested in leadership at all levels, government, private and corporate sectors.
  The artist's consistence with native Yoruba titles, he says, has link to how a particular word applies to different meanings. For Aso, "as an example, it could mean a fabric or a completed wear.” He notes that many Nigerian fashion styles take so much time to wear after the dressmaker would have finished the tailoring. "I think it takes a lot of time to have a Nigerian woman dress. And if we  apply as much energy into fashion, we should also be able to bring similar passion into wherever position of leadership we find ourselves either in the government or private sector, even in our domestic places." He also argues that the loud dressing culture of Nigerians are well appreciated abroad, in contrast to the plaguing leadership vacuum.
  Orimoloye's unpretentious or frontal impressionistic canvas for Aso include works such as The Family Series, Aso Series, Rhapsodies in Brown, Rhapsodies in Orange and Contentment among others.
  As much as the central theme glorifies fashion in its creative and elaborate context, one of the exhibits, Contentment seems to offer caution: a red necklace on a buba and green gele as seen in the portraiture of an unidentified lady could be thumped down as 'fashion blindness' by those who know. But the wearer's beaming face full of excitement, the artist explains, is the Contentment message. While fashionistas would hardly agree with Orimoloye that wearing riotous colour combinations of accessories has anything to do with modesty, the message of "do according to your purse" is not exactly lost in the work.
  Caught between his African background and the European environment where he works and live, Orimoloye coincides to the fact that the latter often takes a wider space in his canvas. "Yes, because Europe is where I live." And there is no mistaken that some of his landscapes are typically European.
  But ‘home is home,’ so the adage says, and confirms by the artist's captures of market scenes in Nigeria such as Eleja and African Women; a riverside scene, Boat Boy, streetscapes of Lagos, Late Morning and a maritime, Badagry Beach, among others.
  Shortly before leaving the U.K for the Aso show in Nigeria, Orimoloye had a solo exhibition at Saffron Wolden Gallery. The catalogue of the exhibition offers a peep into the European themes of the artist. From streetscapes of orderliness in parking cars to mixed modern and Victoria architectures, Orimoloye’s palette knife confirms the weight an artist’s base over whatever cultural background previously imbibed. But in the human contents, the figures are mostly Africans.

 The Family Series by Gbenga Orimoloye.

In the last three years, Orimoloye’s themes at home have proven that the artist still connected with the challenges and development in Nigeria. His exhibitions have focused areas of social and environmental concerns. For example, the social media formed parts of his focus in Oju as he  highlights the increasing attention people give to the hand-held devices.  This much he captures in Face-booking While Walking, a two figural painting which explains that the trend knows no class or gender.
  In the same context, he argues that with a critical and penetrative look “at a person’s face, you realise that, rather than the real person, what you are communicating with is an interface”. And being a representational artist, largely of figurative genre, Orimoloye sees face as “a landscape”. Features of landscapes or streetscapes such as valleys, mountains, and other sceneries, he explains, “can all be present in a face, allegorically”
Trained in Fine Art at Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos, Orimoloye has shown abroad in such galleries as Maria Assumpta Centre, Kensington, London, 1998 and The 198 Gallery, Herne Hill, London in 1998 among several other shows. 

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