|'Dialogue With Self' by Oluwole Omofemi.|
And from his native Yoruba, Omofemi picks the title Iriri (Experience) on which he builds the black beauty themes for a debut solo exhibition, currently showing at Alexis Galleries, Victoria Island, Lagos. Twice last year: a two-artist show with Ghanaian, Samuel Tete-Katchan and a group artists-in-residence had Omofemi shared his evolving style and theme that celebrate black modernity.
With Iriri, the artist’s concept of projecting black fashion and beauty within the contemporary context blossoms more on the canvas. Among the paintings on display is 'Soul Meditation', a gathering of heavily make over ladies in both afro and low cut black natural hair styles. Boldly painted eyelids in depth with the eyelashes as well as complementing coloured lips of the ladies form great naturalism with the ebony black skins.
And comes a lone meditation titled 'Dialogue With Self,' in which Omofemi flaunts his skill in hyperrealism painting. With parted hairstyle, pink lips and light blue glasses, Omofemi, in the painting, celebrates plus-size woman of natural black beauty. "I see the perfection of God in black women, so they have no reason to bleach their skin," Omofemi says during a preview of the exhibition. "My paintings combine realism and abstraction to explain how women distort nature after God created them beautiful."
Beyond the aesthetics of black modernity on beauty and fashion that ooze from Omofemi's palette, the paintings are also used to highlight social issues. For example, the power of the tongue, particularly in leading into misfortune is emphasised.
Some of the paintings in this context -- as beautiful as they are -- shoot out tongues of the unidentified figures or portraits. The significance of the emphasised tongues, he recalls, is inspired by what his father told him. "My father tells me that 'Enu l'e bo' (In the tongue lies the power to both negative and positive)." Omofemi notes that the "Significance of the tongue-out in the paintings is to caution people of the way they talk and when or where to say whatever." Among such work is a hold portrait of lady against blue background. Titled Modi Elenu Razor', the artist discloses that the painting is about his personal experience with a lady in his neighbour whose utterances within the community lack self-control.
Whatever Omofemi experimented with during the Alexis' Artists-in-residency programme last year also reflects in the current body of work. "From the reaidency: some of the new things include addition of flowers and brighter colours," he explains.
In partnership with a not-for-profit, Braille Book Production Centre, Iriri, according to Alexis Galleries, is sponsored by Tiger, Pepsi, Mikano, Delta Airline, Wazobia TV, Nederburg, Cobranet Internet Service Provider, Cool FM, Art Café and the Homestores Limited.
"Braille Book Production Centre is a place that provides educational services for blind and visually impaired pupils and adults and equip them for an independent life via educational services for the blind with the aim of assisting in becoming self-sufficient adults in the communities in which they live and work," says Patty Chidiac-Mastrogiannis founder and director, Alexis Galleries. "The centre was set up by Nigerwives, a not for profit association of non-Nigerian women married to Nigerian men who reside in Nigeria in 1995, and has pioneered the computer production of brailed textbooks in Nigeria." She assures that part of the proceeds if sales from Iriri will be donated to the centre.
The association was founded by Jean Obi, a British by birth. In 1962. Obi moved to Lagos and joined the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) where she taught Braille.
Excerpt from Omofemi's bio:
Born in the late 1980s in the rusty-roofed ancient city of Ibadan, Omofemi had his National Diploma and Higher National Diploma in Fine Arts at The Polytechnic Ibadan. He is a member of the world touring art group 'Coure de Diona' based in Italy and his works are widely collected in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. Omofemi has participated in many group exhibitions both home and internationally.