By Tajudeen Sowole
A season of Lagos art would be incomplete activities without an exhibition by some of Nigeria's leading artists whose immense contributions to the city's art hub status cannot be discounted. The exhibition is a recent yearly series gathering, which started four years ago as a platform for artists to assert their control over what the organisers fear as an attempt by a section of promoters and mangers to distort the creative industry.
Started as Distinction series in 2012 and just held as Infinite Treasures II at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, the 2016 edition asserts the artists' pedigree as a fulcrum on which the art market of Lagos is rested. Artists of Infinite Treasure II include Kolade Oshinowo, Reuben Ugbine, Abiodun Olaku, Bunmi Babatunde, Sam Ovraiti, Edosa Ogiugo, Duke Asidere, Alex Nwokolo, Olusegun Adejumo, Fidelis Eze Odogwu, Diseye Tantua, Mufu Onifade and Segun Aiyesan.
With an average of three to four works per artist, the Olaku and Odogwu-curated Infinite Treasures II brings onto the Lagos art scene the true colours of the city's identity: art rich in great aesthetic, conceptual and intellectual contents combined. In his unpretentious representation style, the most senior of the artists, Oshinowo, 68, continues his themes on ladies' fashion, imploring fabric collage to capture his revered 'repetitive' themes.
Having painted landscapes, mostly in narratives of time, using different periods of sun's transitory motion in the sky, Olaku's masterly strokes on the subject could be a study in astrology. With paintings such as Fellowship - (Study, Oil on Canvas, 2016; The Passage Oil. On Canvas, 2016; and Peace of Gold’ Oil on Canvas, 2016, Olaku's palette adventure into skyline's spiritual beauty continues.
In a soft medium dominated exhibition Infinite Treasures II, three sculptors: Babatunde, Ugbine and Odogwu bring the balance of taste. Each artist, interestingly, has distinct style technique and medium that has overtime, stressed the resilience of sculpture in Nigerian art landscape. While dragging his very successful Possibilities Series, again, into this edition of the yearly exhibition, Babatunde adds Iyawo Osingin (Fresh Bride), a piece in Ebony wood, dated 2016.
Asidere's visual restlessness on his environment takes a hopeful note in ‘Well Used Brain I (Oil on Canvas, 2016), suggesting that despite a decaying social structure, the future isn't exactly tragic.
For those who have been tracking Nwokolo's Oju Series, here comes the artist's new style in Holy Mary, Sister Chioma and Oyin Dudu, all oil on canvas and dated 2016.
Ladies' theme artist, Adejumo moves his brush strokes into the glamour world of women - away from the usual owambe social circle - in a piece titled Diva. New entrant, pop art satirist, Tantua is at his vintage in Cool Kobo Is Better Than Hot Naira, a thoughtful piece for Nigeria's era of moral rebirth.
Two other new entrants, Onifade and Aiyesan bring into the gathering, each, their distinct texture of painting techniques. Onifades's araism comes with more subtle tone while Aiyesan's identity of aged canvas breeds diverse shapes of portraits.
Sponsored by Mr Frank Momoh-led Frot Foundation, Infinite Treasures II, according to Odogwu, confirms the pattern of different sponsors for two of the main series. "Mr Kunle Tinubu of Trojan Estates sponsored Distinction series while Momoh for Infinite Treasures series."Olaku recalls how his planned solo exhibition in 2013, trigered the series into "a self-propelled group exhibition of seven carefully-selected established and respected artists."
And basically, the crust of the exhibitions is to celebrate artists and put them in the driver's seat of the creative indsutry. Olaku has never hidden his suspicion for "pretenders" whose activities and perception of art, he argues, are threat to artists' career.
In a joint curatorial statement, Olaku and Odogwu however assure that "merit in professionalism is a key watchword that consistently guides the selection of participants behind the scene." They stress that "we do not intend to compromise on that.
In alignment with one of our core objectives to ensure that Nigerian contemporary art grows in character, content and value, the periodic themes are generated to illustrate and stress the spirit of the purpose."