Saturday 20 December 2014

Mirage of life, according to Balogun

By Tajudeen Sowole

From the notion of elusive goals, comes sculptor Adeola Balogun's thought expressed in his just held solo art exhibition titled Mirage, and held at Quintessence Gallery, Lekki, Lagos. 

 Recalling the inspiration behind his choice of the title, Balogun listed quite a number of situations, including water-like reflecting surface seen from a distance on asphalted roads but disappears too soon. But the artist, sub-consciously sent a chills down one's spine when he listed, as example of a mirage the recovery of the much-awaited return of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Harram terrorists. He recalled how he likened the return of the kidnapped girls to the mirage of reflective asphalt surface. "I was in Abu Dhabi, UAE during the heat of the debate over the kidnapped Chibok girls." He added that "I saw the mirage constantly on hot asphalt in Abu Dhabi and decided to use it as a metaphor on the missing Chibok girls."

Mirage Series from Adeola Balogun’s art exhibition

From using metal in most of his works, about six to seven years ago, Balogun has, in the last few years added discarded materials such in shredded rubber from tyres. For Mirage, it's a mix of the rubber, wire-mesh and steel sponge as well as paints. Some of the works included a chilling mixed media that has a bar piercing through a heart. Titled Through Our Hearts, it underscores the mood of a country like Nigeria at a period of unprecedented state of insecurity. Also, in works such as Hiding Place and Protective Ring, Balogun implores the power of creativity to scold the leadership of the country on what he described as state of lawlessness. "A lot of impunity going on in Nigeria shows that the country is a haven for lawless people."

Some of the works also reflect his residency programme in Abu Dhabi. He explained that the residency was based on the participants' experience in the host country as well as thoughts on Arabs in general. For him, a popular Arab's folktale Aladin and the Magic Lamp came into focus. To interpret the themes at the residency, some of the works he produced and also shown at Quintessence included Mirage Series.

And as a tribute to the mothers of the Chibok Girls, he also showed Veil Series, a set of works that attempt to peep into the "feelings of the mothers of the kidnapped girls, in comparison with that of sympathisers.  

Surprisingly, the sculptor showed more drawings than sculptures at Mirage in the ratio of over 20 to about eight. Reason: "I needed to quickly contribute to the exigency of this trying period." The drawings, he said, "are dedicated to the Chibok girls." He however noted that "from time to time, the hope of getting the Chibok girls back has become a mirage." But despite a seemingly hopeless situation, the artist prayed that the girls would one day return to their families.

 Balogun explained his work as a "reflective of either spontaneous engagement or long contemplation on my visual encounters depending on circumstance."
 His artist's statement read in parts " I often engage in resuscitation of seemingly ‘dead’ discarded objects by redirecting the inherent energy in them in order to offer a different life imbued with fresh multilayered meaning pertaining to my sensibilities.

  "My charcoal drawings are spontaneous exercises that channel a layering of real and surreal ideas coalesced to reference my multiple cultural interactions in recent times. The spontaneity in my rhythmic mark making in varied thicknesses with dramatic rendering alludes to the notion of people’s divergent perspective and opinion on any particular issue which is often determined by numerous factors such as religion, culture amongst others.
People, places, books, music, myth, folklore in conjunction with used/ready-made objects serve as stimulus towards my visual contemplations. Thus, it is pertinent to state that every piece in this body of work is imbued and charged with the current and dynamics of the experiential encounter and available material that evoked its production."

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