Sunday 25 October 2015

Savouring Moment Of Infinite Treasures

 By Tajudeen Sowole

 From the first gathering two years ago, a group of master artists whose works were shown under Distinction series have grown in numerical strength. Currently 12 in number, from the founding six members, the artists yesterday, opened a new chapter in the yearly exhibition with Infinite Treasures, showing till October 30, 2015 at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Metal sculpture, Madam Kofo, by Fidelis Eze Odogwu
Before savouring the artistic contents of Infinite Treasures, three factors, most likely, would shape one’s assimilation of the group-salon gathering of artists. The three factors, which appear retrospective, cannot be discounted within the context of appropriating the works on display.

The guest artist, Kolade Oshinowo who radiates an aura of meticulousness, nearly all the main exhibiting artists whose collective presence in recent times is consistence and Terra Kulture, a space synonymous with landmark art gatherings, are all the three elements that coalesced to form a pedestal for Infinite Treasures.

 Oshinowo represents the true value in dynamics of an artist whose career demystifies a line drawn between artists in mainstream practice and the academia. If anyone was in doubt about the iconic spot of Oshinowo in Nigerian art lexicon, the organisers of what has been described as the country’s biggest gathering of artists, Living Masters art exhibition, in 2007 confirmed his status when he was included in the historic event. For Infinite Treasures, Oshinowo’s works such as ‘What God Has Joined Together’ and ‘Party Mood and The Maid’ stress his transitory period into textured canvas of fabric.

Individually, Rueben Ugbine, Tayo Quaye, Abiodun Olaku, Bunmi Babatunde, Sam Ovraiti, Edosa Ogiugo, Duke Asidere, Alex Nwokolo, Segun Adejumo, Odogwu Eze Fidelis, Diseye Tantua has encrypted on the Nigerian art landscape - either style or technique - that history would record as peculiar to each artist, over the years or decades.

In sculptures: Maiden Dance, Finishing Strong and Cuddle, Ugbine brings a technique of contemporary compliance flavor that looks like images from hi-tech concept. Quite a number of Nigerian artists have created identity in diverse family of prints. But for Quaye, the lino relief, which comes in shades of drawing and painterly texture is strengthened in works such as Fright, The Cork, Face IV, Survival and Imole.

Master landscape painter, Olaku continues to rescue the basics of art from being lost into subjectivity, so explains his meticulousness in ‘Conversations,’ a depth of water and skyline convergence. Olaku, whose brushstrokes appear restless when it comes to the subject of environment, expands his thoughts in ‘Floating Camps,’ a painting that highlights habitat question.

 Beyond the art market strength of wood works by Babatunde in recent years, the ebullience of the sculptor keeps growing, particularly in some of his series. In natural wood texture, he comes into the Infinite Treasure gathering with Omo Oge, Posibilities III and Supplicants.       

Abstraction is perhaps more engaging in the contextual form as Ovraiti appropriate it, allowing colours to start the dialogues. For example, his oil on canvas pieces, Harmonious Relationship and Heads of Honour series gives quite a breathing space for the colours over forms, suggesting a leaning towards his ‘colourist’ identity.

For the purists, Ogiugo’s strokes would continue to be revered in the resilience of figure rendition. His works in the rudiment of art such as Life Study On Oil and Life Study on Pastel offer observers quite a lot to chew and spit in comparative forms and medium.  

 You do not need magnifier to spot women of Asidere’s canvas from the flood of themes about the softer gender across Nigerian art space. Either in figures or colours, Asidere brings his subjects into the context of responsive engagement with issues affecting the society at large. However, in Travels II and IV, a more subtle approach to women’s focus appear to have surfaced on predictable canvas of the artist.

Arguably, Nwokolo’s canvas, in recent years, has been among the most aggressive in the quest for contemporaneity compliance.  Known for multiplicity or crowd-effect techniques, Nwokolo continues to transport that identity into more expansive narration with his application of materials and mediums in works such as Unknown Soldiers series, Socialites, Argungu III and Titled Men.

With a landscape, Larbadi Dusk; a scientific capture of transition, Lotus ReflexIncubation Mode; moulding the gele, Mirror Mirror; and cladded nude, Musing, Adejumo presents an interesting eclectic body of work. But in Mirror Mirror, the vintage Adejumo whose palette has perched on the elegance of native iro / buba and gele, female Yoruba fashion for decades, is alive.

A painting, Larbadi Dusk by Segun Adejumo
Cubic cracking in Odogwu’s work has expanded the scope of metal sculpture beyond the traditional space. As much as natural texture of metal has proven to be resilient in whatever shades of themes as seen in his works like The Soul and the Lyrics, Does it Fit?  Family Tree and Elements of Beauty, there comes a painterly intrusion in Madam Kofo. Perhaps, natural metal, even in toning is not enough to highlight the gele of the popular TV character.

 In painting and drawing by Tantua, pop art has taken African definition, hence the artist’s coinage, ‘afro-pop art.’ Indeed, it is hard to fault Tantua’s claim as his work has, over the years, proven to be a reference point in pop art vocabulary. For Infinite Treasures, Tantua further simplifies his afro-pop art technique in drawings and paintings such as No Telephone To Heaven, Talk Your Own and No Hanky Panky.

For the complex fact that a choice of space would continue to contribute to perception aspect of art appreciation and appropriation, artists no longer pick venue subconsciously. Terra Kulture as a space of choice for Infinite Treasures complements the status of all the exhibiting artists. Apart from being the choice of the historic art exhibition, Living Masters and several others, Terra Kulture has also been part of the camaraderie of the last three years within the context of a yearly group art exhibition involving most of the Infinite Treasures artists. The first two shows, Distinction 1 and 2 held in 2013 and 2014 have built a platform on which the initiators have continued to strengthen artists’ relationship with the general public.

 Though tagged a salon, the Infinite Treasures gathering at Terra Kulture – given the background of similar consecutive shows in the last two years - would take a life of its own. So, there’s a need to appreciate the value of consistency from some of Nigeria’s leading masters as presented in Infinite Treasures.
 (Published in The Guardian Nigeria, Sunday, October 25, 2015)

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