Saturday 14 February 2015

From design to painting, Tijani keeps 'Breaking Bounds'

By Tajudeen Sowole
FOR more than 25 years as an artist, Dr. Iyabo Tijani has had a flourishing career in design, illustration and traditional painting forms. But she is embarking on a transition to contemporary destination with her latest experimentation with abstraction.

Abstract painting Sambisa Forest by Dr Iyabo Tijani
Thematically, the new body of work titled Breaking Bounds - currently showing till February 26, 2015 at Yusuf Grillo Gallery, Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos - is the artist's visual narration of the challenges faced by women across strata of life. And as much as the theme exposes Tijani's empathy for women empowerment, it also shows her boldness in breaking away from the confinement of graphics art.

While her choice of the academic environment to showcase the new works is well understood, being the artist's immediate constituency, the unlit gallery space, however, does not complement the gesture of Tijani. On the second day after the show formally opened to guests, darkness still pervades the gallery. Despite the semi-darkroom gallery, some of the works such as Sambisa Forest, Inner Corridor and Peace to the World are still visible from the reflection of natural daylight coming through the main door and small window.

When she says the exhibition "is a sequel to Invisible Barriers," her sentiment over the plight of women is further stressed. Rendered in mostly natural flow of acrylic on canvas, the paintings depict the fragility of the female gender in the so-called 'man's world.'  From the nearly extreme end of the gallery is Sambisa Forest, a work that has abstraction lifted with high depth in shades of colours.

For either political or some questionable ideological leanings, Nigerians have allowed the Boko Haram insurgency to pierce through the fragile strings of the country's unity. But Tijani's painting has nothing to do with the politics of the dreaded forest.  The forest, a part of northeastern Nigeria made popular by the terrorist group, Boko Haram's kidnap of over 250 girls in April last year comes into the canvas of Tijani in the context of her argument about the female fragility. The kidnappers, she notes, "went for the girls because of the soft nature of female." Perhaps it would have been difficult to have so many numbers taken away were the victims boys."

As an art piece, the aesthetics of Tijani's Sambisa Forest contrasts the tragic story of the subject. "Yes, it's deliberate," Tijani agrees, Sambisa could have come into the focus of the world for the good reason. "Perhaps it could have been a tourist attraction."

From being a partner "that God" designed a woman to be for man, things have changed over generations and history, according to Tijani. Woman has been reduced to mere tools "and subordinate." Either at home or work place, quite a lot of unfair treatment, she says in another painting, Inner Corridor, are being unleashed on women. Most times, such pains "are concealed by the victims."
 The fragility of women has been so highlighted in the contemporary world such that myth and reality are hardly separated. For some activists of women’s right-related issues, it's just about adding to the numbers, perhaps to promote some personal gains. For Tijani, experience, she discloses, spurred her interest. She recalls her years as illustrator in an ad agency and would not wish any woman goes through such. For example, "your office wants you to work late till a boss comes after closing hours for a meeting with the entire staff." Such schedules of work, she argues "cannot apply to a family woman."

In search of a platform to broaden her creative calling, the Harmattan Workshop at Agbar Otor, Delta State seemed like the window, which Tijani needed to keep the journey going. She discloses that at the Harmattan Workshop, "I stumbled on a painting technique" that has opened more creative themes.

However, in technique and styles, Breaking Bounds, has traces of a Gani Odutokun swimming of colours. As a Graphic Art student at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, did Tijani have any connection with the late fine art teacher? "Yes," a slight link, she recalls. "I learnt Basic Design under Odutokun, in my first year."  The style of paintings seen in Breaking Bounds, she explains, "is just part of my journey through the real destination"

In 2008, Tijani shared her 20 years experience in the design and branding career when she published Advertising Principle and Practice, a book described as encompassing her experience since 1988 when she joined the advertising profession as a graphic artist. In 1994, Tijani left the ad agency for teaching at Yabatech. She also lectured Graphic Art at Yabatech, Lagos untill three years ago when she joined ABU.

Tijani had her first and second degrees in Graphic Art at ABU, Zaria, and PhD in Art Education from the same university.

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