Sunday 16 February 2020

Unleashing Balogun’s art of 'Current Rhythm' against vanity dance

Drum of Honour -1 (mixed media, 163 x 80 x 80cm), 2019, by Adeola Balogun.
Again, Adeola Balogun brings musical tones into sculptural and drawing expressions, using unconventional medium and charcoal. In recent times, quite a number of his works have been laced with musical instruments themes.

His latest solo exhibition titled Current Rhythm, held at Cornelius Adepegba Museum of African Art, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, was compartmentalized into three sub-themes. Collectively, the three sections, rendered in discarded and new materials as well as drawings, track the lost legacy of Nigeria and misplaced celebrations.

In series such as Phenomenal Factor, Distorted Legacies and Drum of Honours, Balogun lavishes the space with depth that takes dual genres in mixed media to fit into wall sculpture. From the Phenomenal Factor-1, for example, comes the musical notation sign, treble clef, in which the artist brings quite a number of metallic and other materials to form the wall hanging piece. But quite distinct among the assemblage of objects are a guitar and clusters of old coins.

However, the old coins become more prominent in all the more than five of the Phenomenal series, in which the artist draws a metaphor of their valueless, within the Nigerian legal tender. The series include minimalism of a fashionable head, though with implanted Awolowo face; a violin design piece, in mixed media, which also looks like the goje musical instrument of native Yoruba; and a key symbol, highlighted by red ring at handle, among others. For each of the pieces, the coins play prominent visibility. “My encounter with a huge quantity of Nigeria coins and fascination with the intricate designs on old naira notes provoked the Phenomenal Factor series,” Balogun stated. “It is worthy of note that at a point in history, these coins and notes were legal tender, but with passage of time, couple with economic dynamics, they have become economic dysfunctional.” He explained that the trajectory of the old coins generated bringing them into the visual composites “as metaphor for the transiency and vanity of power and riches in all ramifications.” 
  In identical renditions of four, the Drum of Honour series, which the artist calls metaphorical sculptural drums, drip in aesthetics. Quite colourful and elaborate in the application of materials, each of the series comes with illusion of functionality, but their decorative value is more of reality.

Balogun is arguably, one of the Nigerian artists whose sculptures, in depicting the bull, have been quite consistent. From heavy metal to shredded rubber, his art in the bull theme has been exhibited in Nigeria and abroad. For this exhibition, he brings Defensive Stance, in which the artist captures the bull in its readiness for action.

Apart from his public space works such as a statue of Obafemi Awolowo, formerly at Allen Avenue Roundabout, Ikeja and Madam Tinubu bust in front of Union Bank, Marina, among others, Balogun is hardly known to exhibit figurative sculpture.

But in the Current Rhythm exhibition, he showed life size of a lady titled Inner Beauty. Whatever the unseen beauty of the lady is, the physical attractions, specifically, in the aspect of femininity strengthens the artist’s articulation of the figure.

The Phenomenal Factor VI (mixed media, 122 x 244cm), 2019.
Under the brushstrokes of monochrome, the artist faintly buries heads of some of Nigeria’s past statesmen of the last century. The series titled Distorted Legacy, which feature faces of leaders such as Premier of Western region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo; Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; the country’s first president, Nnamidi Azikiwe; and assassinated military head of state, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, celebrates statesmanship and leadership values that are rarity in contemporary polity.

As spontaneity in creation of art continues to be a subject of relativity, Balogun’s drawings in Distorted Legacy series is taken into record for critics to note. The artist may not be exactly among those who claim to be spontaneous, but the charcoal as a medium drags him into that natural instinct. The Distorted Legacy series, he disclosed, “derives its strength from the spontaneity inherent in charcoal as a drawing medium, which I often mixed with other media.”

In his Artist Statement, Balogun
clarified that applying disused objects has nothing to do with lack of materials or resources to work with. “I am driven by the need to recognize and respect the inherent value of every creation and transmute it in the creation of object of aesthetic contemplation.” He argued that human activities, across strata of life, generates so much wastes such that the volume is too visible to ignore, particularly for creative professionals interested in alternative materials.

Thematically, his choice of subjects, directly connected to the loss value of coins and notes, in Nigeria, also highlights money as a burden in the rat race towards vanity glory comes into focus of the artist’s Current Rhythm theme. “Money and its acquisition have spelled doom for both the high and plebeians before such people come to the realization of the vanity of the object of their attraction.” He noted how in Current Rhythm, the coins are applied “as a visual representation of the current trend in our society where the most dastardly acts, such as ritual killing, kidnapping, corruption, among others are perpetrated in the attempt to accumulate illicit riches.”
 Balogun lamented that some contemporary Nigerian musical contents have been promoting the vanity of money at all cost. Citing one of the country’s reigning artiste, Davido’s lyrical contents of "If you no get money, hide your face," Balogun’s art articulates his thought by infusing trumpet, and treble clef in visual context. “This is meant to evince the interrelatedness of music and money as factors with profound influence in the life of the masses.”

Coincidentally, Balogun’s list of public space and privately commissioned art across Nigeria, have celebrated great values — not materialism — across strata of life. Some of such public and private space statues include the Michael Ibru (bronze, 2017), at Michael & Cecilia Bru University, Delta State; Ayangburen of Ikorodu, (2015), Ikorodu, Lagos; Obafemi Awolowo (19ft), at Allen round-about, Ikeja (1999), Funso Williams bronze (18ft), at Western Avenue round-about (renamed Funso Williams; and Sir John Glover and Madam Tinubu’s bronze busts, at the foyer of Union Bank building in Marina, Lagos, Nigeria.

Also, Balogun’s non-statues works that celebrate values include Towards Achieving Distinction (25ft), and Symbol of Justice and Culture statue (bronze sculpture 26ft), inside  University of Ibadan (2009) and  University of Lagos (2015), respectively, while History (2015), welded steel sculpture(11ft) and Outflow, an installation, are both at garden of Galleri Ashley, Uteshberg, Sweden.

Balogun combines studio practice with teaching career at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, where he had earlier graduated with specialization in sculpture (1993/94). He has his Masters in Fine Art (MFA, Sculpture) at the University of Benin (2001/4), Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. He is currently rounding off his PhD in Sculpture (Studio) at Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State.
 Tajudeen Sowole.

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