By Tajudeen Sowole
CONTEMPORARY process of creating art, such as digital and other postmodern methods, could not have surfaced without the traditional steps as part of natural progression, so suggests Geoffrey Aje Arueyingho's broadened scope, which covers medium and genres across visual arts. From art to craft and through the terrain of design, Arueyingho collapses the boundaries and barriers, and brings creativity into a single space.
Presented as a solo exhibition titled Early Search at The Art Gallery, Fine and Applied Arts Department, Federal College of Education, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Arueyingho's works included portraits on wood cut, gouache, corals, deep etching, graphite, metal in relief, photography, lino-print, graphite and textile design. Though an exhibition, the body of work, interestingly, also serves as a medium of documentation, revisiting how most art and design genres or medium of today evolved in pre-digital periods.
From a 1983 figural An Old Beggar, Don't Let Us Weep (1984) to Back Home (1990), as well as Fulani Girl (1989) and Hausa Baby Drummer (1990), Arueyingho digs into old collection to excavate the resilient application of yarn on board, deep etching, acid etching and gouache among other medium. More interesting, the artist, back then, seemed to have found graphite a flexible medium in rendering figural forms. For examples, Self Portrait (1984) and Ben (1985) are quite some lessons in how to take portraiture into non-regular texture, yet achieve facial as well as other features in details.
In a group of works he calls Colour Photographic Experiment, Arueyingho had taken darkroom adventure into the future, perhaps pre-empting the digital age of photography. Such experiments, in portraits include, Rose, Aje in the Studio, Ebele and Aje in Clay, all dated 1983.
As much as such a very innovative approach to art exhibition is laudable, it would be more appreciated with wider viewership beyond the artist's academic environment. Perhaps, a tour exhibition, in future, could be possible, particularly for the essence of documenting the past via wider spread - in viewership - of the contents.
In Arueyingho 's work, art historians interested in periods could have quite a volume to devour. More salient of Early Search's appearance is that fact that the Nigerian art space has a deficit of specialised documentation, particularly in the process or medium of art making.
"My search in media for my visual expressions has been very tedious but interesting," he says in his Artist Statement. "This is so because visual art on its own is an all encompassing process and product that teases any one that has passion for whatever goes by this nomenclature."
He recalled that then his early search revolved around mostly medium such as graphics, drawings, prints, textiles, embroidery, metal and wood, of which he said "were exhibited in one joint and 12 group art exhibitions."
However, other solo exhibitions would reveal more aspects of his visual experiments and adventures. He recalls how, over the years, his interactions with humans, places and materials have reshaped his perception of events. Such experience, he notes, made it necessary for him to use as many medium as "appropriate" to release his artistic outburst.
Excerpts from his Artist Statement: "As a professional teacher, it is incumbent on me to document, visually, how it had been before the arrival of digital art. Posters for example, were done with T-squares, rulers, drawing instruments, letrasets, etc to produce some of the works I have displayed. Deep etchings produced from metals cut deep with hydrochloric acid, serigraphs produced from manually blocked open meshes with enamel paint, and blurred effects or chiaroscuro on portraits, produced using graphite are exhibited to remind our students that, though the technology I used was not as advanced as what is obtained today, appreciable results were still possible.
“Considering the time frame, most of the works for this exhibition were produced between 1983 and 1990. As my debut solo art exhibition, it is to show-case my explorations and experimentations with different media, like posters, graphite, ink, wood, metal, textiles, etc, etc. It is hoped that people’s reactions to this exhibition would act as catalyst to more experimentation and new findings.