Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Monuments artist, Sanwo goes drawing with 'Lines and Legacy'

'The Lost Patrimony' (Olaiya House).

It takes an artist like Kehinde Sanwo whose strokes relish the value of basic rules to be a repository of visual heritage. For over two decades of his nearly 30 years studio career, Sanwo's oeuvre of paintings in monument architecture themes is perhaps the richest in this part of the world.

In fact, were artist like Sanwo lived in the ages past, some of the extinct Seven Wonders of the Ancient World would have been accurately documented in real time paintings instead of the artists impressions that represent such lost monuments. Currently, the artist changes the texture of his architecture documentary art from painting to drawing. Also, he expands his heritage themes to lost modern hair style of women, and generates human behaviourial value in the Nigerian context.

In 30 artworks, and under the title Lines and Legacy, Sanwo will be showing his drawings of some lost and standing buildings as well as human values from, October 21, 2018 at One Draw Gallery, 74, Norman Williams Street, Ikoyi, Lagos. Sanwo's  monochrome-dominated body of work, deliberately, is One Draw's first solo art exhibition for an artist since the specialised gallery opened over a year ago.

Still standing and depicted in Sanwo's Line and Legacy is a nineteenth century private property known as 'Water House', occupying Kakawa and Candido Da Rocha streets, Lagos Island. Built in 1875 for Jao Esan Da Rocha, a Bahia, Brazil returnee who was considered as the first millionaire in Nigeria, the building is a designated National Monument. Renovated, perhaps many times over the century, but Sanwo's lines of charcoal and conte on paper, enhanced by hues in rendition of the facade and arch-style windows, injects  life into the old Portuguese design architecture.

While the Darocha or Water House is still standing, over 140 years after construction, few minutes walk away -- within the same axis -- another Portuguese design architecture of nineteenth century period, 'Olaiya House' (Ilojo Bar), at Tinubu Square was not so fortunate. Two years ago, an unknown developer linked to Lagos State Government pulled the monument down to ground zero. Though Lagos State denied any involvement in the demolition, the mystery destroyer of the building is still unknown nor anyone prosecuted for the lawlessness against the national monument. 

However, Sanwo was able to capture the last moment of the demise of Olaiya House, a year before its demolition. Being the most recent tragic narrative among the demised monuments within the Lagos Island, the Olaiya House gets deserved attention in Sanwo's documentary drawings.  From the facade to the arch-style windows and doors, the artist has about two or three pieces on the building for this exhibition.

Showing his monuments signature in monochrome, the artist explained, "was inspired by "the destruction of Ilojo Bar and an encounter with my daughter's home assignment". He recalled his suprise when the Olaiya House was pulled down over two years ago. "More surprising was that such dastardly act happened when Lagos was celebrating 50 years", Sanwo told select preview guests. "Portuguese and other colonial designs architecture in Lagos are among features that define the city's history and heritage". To recover from that trauma, he found solace in drawings of the monuments, rather than the paintings he had done on them in the past two decades.

As much as extentsive application of line exists in his current works, such, he stated, was not new to his oeuvre. "In 1997, I also used lines for a salon exhibition", and from then till now, profound application of lines have been part of his works.

Heritage within the human context are shown in some of the works. Mostly of hair style and fashion, these set of works, he said, were inspired "trying to help my daughter solve a home assignmnet".  Having found "coin as solution" to her daughter's homework, he thought: 'why not use it for my art?' In some of the hair styles and fashions, he appropriates coins as parts of accessories. But in broader context, Sanwo hopes that the works with coins would help induce conversation over recovery of lost values in daily regular commercial transaction, among Nigerians.

Among other drawings of old buildings for the exhibition is 'Bathed in Light', depiction of African Church Cathedral (Bethel). Being of Gothic architecture, it was designed by Bagan Benjamin and modeled after St. Paul's Cathedral, London, in 1928. It was built by Diya Olu, a local builder who used burnt bricks on strong foundation, reinforced with iron beams imported from the U.K.

Though renovated, but still standing is the 'Central Mosque' on Nnamdi Azikwe Street, Lagos. Sanwo captures the the Old Central Mosque -- located on what used to be Victoria Street -- built with burnt bricks. The provenance says its construction was started by Joas Baptista da Costa and completed by his apprentice, Sanusi Aka. Its foundation-stone was laid on July 15, 1908 and the mosque opened to worshippers on 15 July 1913. It was demolished in 1983 and replaced with the current ultra-modern Lagos Central Mosque.

'Bathed in Light', depiction of African Church Cathedral (Bethel)

Also, there is 'Alma Mater', representing King's College Lagos. Founded on September 20, 1909 with 10 students on its original site at Lagos Island, adjacent to Tafawa Balewa Square, the central building in the complex was constructed with a Georgian design.

Operating within a 500 metre axis of other five art facilities, One Draw, the specialised gallery has contents that stick out, uniquely. And Sanwo's Lines and Legacy boosts the gallery's innovative approach to art appreciation.

"As a spcialised gallery, One Draw, in the past one year has exhibited quite a number of drawings by many artists", director and founder, Olusegun Adejumo said. "And now that we decided to have a solo exhibition, Sanwo fits the quality and calibre of artist that enhances the reputation we are establishing as a specialised gallery".

Excerpts from the gallery statement;
"The artist whose love for architecture, love of lines, desire for the preservation of culture and the need to leave something behind for posterity has propelled him to record the fast disappearing historical landscape of Lagos. He began this project over two decades ago.

"Kehinde has engaged us through his paintings over the years, and now through his lines, he draws our attention to a way of life that we are unconsciously losing


Kehinde Sanwo

"Kehinde's works are in line with our core values at One Draw Gallery, which are:
1. To build up a strong drawing culture in the visual arts, where stronger basics give rise to much better artistic expression.
2. To preserve testament of greatness in our history as Nigerians.
3. To write our own story as it is expressed 'from the horses' mouth'.

"We are proud to present the artistic offerings of Kehinde Sanwo as our first solo exhibition and we invite you to travel a little back in time through his line and hues to a place of nostalgia".
 -Tajudeen Sowole.

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