Saturday 23 August 2014

Masterly inspiration uncovers Olumide's relief sculpture of treasure

By Tajudeen Sowole
When a young artist replicates the signature of a master to the point of identical aesthetics, it may turn out a good gamble as Morenikeji Olumide attempts in a combined-sculpture and painting. 

The young, Lagos-based artist's relief of wood replicates master El Anatsui's panel rendition in sculpture. But Morenike's journey to a masterly future career via the shadow of Anatsui looks like a risk worth taking.

Morenikeji Olumide’s panel wood of relief sculpture and painting

Unlike Gerrard Chukwuma – another young artist who uses  the technique of Anatsui - Olumide was not a student of the Ghanaian-born Nigerian master. Though he studied painting at the same University of Nigeria (UNN) Usukka, Enugu State, but not under the tutelage of Anatsui. So, how and when did Olumide come across the passion for relief sculpture that is very much like the Nsukka master? "I wasn't doing this at UNN: I majored in painting, but started relief sculpture just two years ago," Olumide said during a chat in his promoter, Peter Imo's office in Lagos. "I hardly knew Anatsui's work at school because he was never my teacher."
 Coming from a painting discipline, his style of sculpture is heavily laced with the fluid medium. Olumide would not see his work as a change from the painting he has been for many years. "Not exactly a change. It is still painting, but on a relief surface."
Whatever Olumide picked from Nsukka, particularly in the area of native signs and symbols represented in uli motifs, he seemed to have brought into his Yoruba culture. Specifically, his style of motifs-populated relief sculpture is inspired by the works of adire artists in his hometown, Itoku, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Over the ages, artists, would not stop situating art and deconstructing its essence. For Olumide, art of self- expression must come with some relevant contents. "I feel it is an expression of one’s experience in relation to issues, events, history, etc of the artist’s environment."

Based on his wide view of art, the choice of material and medium, he said, enhances better communication with his work and appropriation of the contents.  "My choice of media informs people about my statement of mind as instilled by my culture. In my art I usually try to create a mood or feeling, quite often it reflects human strength, beauty, joy, excitement or even vanity. My art is an effort at working through and communicating these feelings with my local dialects as a vehicle. I like it when my wood panels talk to the audience. As an artist there are several things I may not be able to communicate to people verbally hence my choice of Yoruba adages on my panels."

His bio reads: Olumide studied Fine and Applied Art at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 2005. His conceptual approach to art involves the use of diverse media to explore the rich ethical value of the relationship and life style of diverse Nigerian ethnic background, but recently his wood panels on the ‘Wisdom series’ have greatly focused on Yoruba adages and folk tales. He has taken part in different art projects, shows, exhibition and workshops both within and outside Nigeria.

The promoter, Imo is an art enthusiast who has been in the art business for over 15 years. A graduate of Government and Public Administration from the Abia State University, Uturu Okigwe, Imo went straight into art business after his graduation.

Imo disclosed that he was inspired to venture into art business "by the fact that I am a self-taught artist and actually took art classes, but never graduated as an artist." He said he has produced about 20 paintings which are in the hands of private collectors. His collectors, he recalled, inspired and encouraged him during his early years in the art business.

His bio says: Imo took part in the first Caterina de Medici International painting competition and award, in Florence, Italy 2002 where he obtained a certificate and  a bronze medal for his participation. Two Nigerian artists who accompanied him for the event won a silver medal and a cash prize for coming third and fourth place. 1n 2009 he enrolled another Nigerian artist Samuel Ebohon for the same event where the artist emerged with a gold medal and a cash prize of 10 thousand euro.

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