Saturday 7 January 2017

Filling Mosaic Art Vacuum With Olaopa's Mission

By Tajudeen Sowole

 AS one of the oldest media of visual representation, mosaic art, whichdates back to the third millennium BCE, is still, in contemporary era, mostly used for outdoor works. Perhaps, confining it to outdoor, particularly in a country like Nigeria where the demand for it is not as regular, has been the reason for its decline and weak appreciation.
Mosaic mural for outdoor wall covering of a private building in Lagos.
Also, being a medium of art that requires an artist's painstaking attention in placing spots of materials to form clusters of images, quite a number of artists keep a distance from the ancient art form. In Lagos, the most notable mosaic art in public space exists as murals along the tunnel-like road at Maryland - in and outward of Ojota, Lagos. Apparently, there are
very few mosaic art in public spaces in Lagos and other big cities across the country, despite the durability of the medium on walls compared to direct painting or frieze sculpture.

  And to argue that mosaic art is not common in private space - just because of the challenge in creating it - may not be exactly correct. In fact, some artists, surprisingly, seem to specialise in this bronze-ages period of art. However, it takes microscopic view to get one of such artists, particularly in a Nigerian art space, where the best of artists are full time professionals who have bills to pay like other career people in the creative industry.

  A medium-sized wall piece mosaic in the moderate studio/office of artist, Ayodele Olaopa attracts attention and generates conversation on the fading spot of the medium in Nigeria. There is no doubt that low patronage is an issue, but demand from the public that is required to encourage good mosaic piece is not exactly the issue. The materials and perhaps intellectual energy of an artist appears to be more important. "Mosaic is a versatile and permanent wall-covering that requires thorough preparation of the wall," Olaopa explains. Basically, wall covering or mural is mostly associated with mosaic; a well-prepared wall that would resist environmental hostility is crucial.  

  Though an artist, who claims he does mosaic quite often - either as mural or small wall piece - the urge to do more, he discloses, has always been in him. The challenge, however, is time and poor level of awareness among art enthusiasts.

  If indeed the art appreciation space in Lagos - public or private - needs to diversify its texture beyond the common medium of painting and sculpture, mosaic and frieze are too areas that have been grossly under used. From the 2017 onwards, Olaopa hopes to lead the mosaic reawakening and consciousness in art appreciation. 

  Before Olaopa starts his mosaic art activism, he would need to consider that perhaps there are other factors that discourage art lovers from having mosaic in their private collections. Quite a number of mosaic art in public spaces, for example, hardly stand the test of time. Could it be that the challenge in restoration lacks the right expertise in this part of the world? Lack of proper understanding in application of the medium as well as difficulty in getting the right materials, he notes, are the bane of regular production of mosaic art.

  "Some artists lack skill to identify genuine materials and therefore can't achieve meticulous installation that mosaic art requires," he said.
A wall portrait piece titled Sisi Bisi 

  In supporting his claims, the artist mentions quite a number of works in private locations.

  "I design and install unique mosaic murals in a range of styles and sizes to create stunning permanent feature," he boasts. "Such works are guaranteed for life."

  Among his past works in murals and wall hangings are a sprawling one in a private building and several portraits as well as abstracts. For example, the private building mural, interestingly, is the only outer layer surface of the house. Adding more aesthetics value is a geometric floor design that is sandwiched by the two wings of the building.

  "The abstract piece at the entrance of this building owes its attraction to the hot tropical colours that are also complemented by the potted plants that flank the entrance," Olaopa noted

  A wall portrait piece titled Sisi Bisi celebrates the resilient Yoruba female fashion of buba (blouse) and gele (headgear). Enhancing the bright mood of the model is the artist's application of dominant yellow. Olaopa further flaunts his mosaic skills in other two wall pieces, a geometry and portrait of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo.

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