Sunday 21 July 2019

How Ogunwo's brushstrokes of hope exposed 'More Than Meets the Eye'

'Common Ground' (acrylic on canvas, 120 x 120, 2019), by Bolaji Ogunwo.
From the deafening cries of woes and despair among Nigerians comes a respite in artist, Bolaji Ogunwo’s brushstrokes of hope. In his art, Ogunwo warns that Nigerians must not surrender to the dictate of retrogression; rather people should take control and make the country work. 
Ogunwo’s gospel of resilient patriotic struggle came as a solo art exhibition titled More Than Meets The Eye, shown at International
Institute for Creative Development (IICD) Centre, FCT, Abuja.

Disturbed by what he termed as “exodus” of Nigerians seeking
emigration to overseas, Ogunwo, a Fine Art teacher brings into the Nigerian nationhood challenge narrative his visual inputs of
motivational perspectives. His second major exhibition in less than one year, More Than Meets The Eye makes the artist’s third solo shows overall. 

  Between sustaining his signature and creating fresh canvas, Ogunwo strokes a subtle change and balance. Among such chains of styles and techniques comes a diptych titled ‘Exodus’, which represents movement of people in general. Dripped in ethnic colours, the diptych perhaps draws attention to cross-border emigration. However, in bringing the essence of visual communication into the compartmented piece, Ogunwo plays around native and ethnic colours to spice the theme.
In simplified themes, Ogunwo takes his audience through paintings that
come down from the elitist ladder of art appreciation. Among such is a rendition from high angle view titled ‘Hope Arising.’  Blending the illusion of space with expectation, Ogunwo applies the art and science of representation to create a painting that inspires those who eagerly look up to some kind of expectation.

If lighting technique is a strength to some artists in painting, for Ogunwo, creating subtle contrast between light and shade appear to boost the texture of his canvas. His palettes inspire light and shade movements in parallel directions, creating suspense that eventually takes a common melting point in visual coherence of aesthetic value.

Being an artist gives him the impression that even creativity can be applied to all aspects of human challenges, nationhood inclusive. He
argues that places or land don’t make the people, but “the people make the places.” For those who have chosen no second country except Nigeria, Ogunwo has something for them: “The worst is here, but the best is yet to come, hence, I go nowhere but here.”
 Ogunwo’s return to the art exhibition circuit, specifically, outside his academic space twice in one year has, again, confirmed that the town and the gown coalescence works for discerning professionals across divides.

With a debut solo titled Chronicles in 2008, Ogunwo, a lecturer at the Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos announced his arrival on the art exhibition circuit. Six years after, he returned with Visual Cocktail, shown at Terra Kuture, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Tracking Ogunwo’s oeuvre – from 2008 till date – the simplicity of
some his themes is among the attractions to his canvas. For examples domestic items and chores, ususally built among his exhibits suggest that as much as most artists like to flaunts their depth of conceptual and intellectual strength, simple themes, particularly of domestic objects are also integral part of communication ability in visual context. The metaphor of contentment could be distilled in ‘Abundance’, a simple painting of vase and its plants contents.

From three solo shows in Lagos, Ogunwo’s spreading of his canvas to
the FCT Abuja, expands the artist’s horizon. A gallery statement from
IICD explains how the new centre assimilated the artist’s works and
presented them to the art lovers in Abuja.

“We, at IICD Center, are honoured to share with you again the immerse
depth, expressive and high impressionist works of Bolaji Ogunwo,” Nduwhite Ndubuisi writes. ”It is not very often that we present recent works of an artist in this manner, but this curated collection of Ogunwo's recent works titled,”
‘Exodus’ , acrylic on canvas diptych, 105 x 210 cm, by Bolaji Ogunwo.
Excerpts; "More Than Meets The Eye”, is outstanding. In this exhibition, he shares his position on emigration and the economic challenges facing our dear country, Nigeria. Just like every great artist that ever lived, Ogunwo is first a messenger and then, he is a patriot and strong believer in Nigeria's future.

 “In his words, ‘The upsurge of emigration in recent times has become worrisome for me as a creative luminary. Like never before, certain embassies are bombarded daily by Nigerians in a bid to obtain visas, not for vacation but obviously for permanent relocation due to lingering challenges ranging from corruption and banditry to incessan killings that permeate the nation.... Nothing seems to be working, nevertheless, there is more to this, than meets the eye.”
 - Tajudeen Sowole.

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