Friday 26 March 2021

In 'Talking Canvases', Oyedemi uncovers new language of art

A paining titled 'Dauntless' (oil on canvas, 1110x100 cm, dated 2019), from Dr John Oyedemi's Talking Canvases. Pic: c/o Alexis.

TITLED Talking Canvases, Dr John Oyedemi's solo exhibition, which opens from tomorrow, Saturday March 27, showing till April 3, 2021 at Alexis Galleries, Akin Okugbade Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, generates quite some depth of conceptualisation, so suggests reviews by the artist's colleagues.


“Vision and all it involves have inspired a great deal of the works in this exhibition tagged Talking Canvases, wrote Best Ochigbo, Professor of Painting at University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. "In exploring the relationship between the support and the medium, how the medium is manipulated into tangible visuals to stimulate the aesthetics in the mind."

In his Introductory note for the exhibition, Ochigbo explained how "Oyedemi appears to give back to society all the surreal engagements and gifts of nature through his creative ingenuity."

Excerpts from Ochigbo's thoughts: "His works provide us a perfect balance of medium and forms that opens the gateway to fulfill our Soul purpose of aesth- etic assimilation and contemplation. Talking Canvases by Oyedemi appear so bubbly and delicate with a lot of action and dynamism, rendered in soft backgrounds that fuses with the forms in seamless nuance. 

  The colours complement one another, and most often analogues. This technique makes the works so fascinating, fresh, full of hope and life.</span></p><p><span style=" type="text/javascript" x-large="">"I would love to ascribe to Oyedemi’s works as Controlled Action Painting, with wonderful compositions in which the forms emerge from a blurred whitish background. A novel artistic voyage in painting renaissance. Oyedemi provides us with a glimpse into a world of painting exploration that echoes the future trend of a unique tradition."His style at a glance brings to mind, works of masters like Gani Odutokun and a Ukrainian painter Vasyl Lyalyuk. The deep essence of his paintings can be viewed analytically as the viewer enters into the realm of the artist’s thoughts and the aggregate of his vision for a better understanding of each piece. His palette is unmistakably his identity and flourish as exemplified in works like “Royalty 1”, and “Royalty 2”, in which visual elements of colour, space and form are employed to create visual dialogue in splendor. No wonder the choice of Talking Canvasses by John Oyedemi.

"I am delighted to invite art collectors, curators, enthusiast and historiogra-  phers to view this exhibition that satisfies the soul’s aesthetic yearnings. It’s an exhibition that offers each and everyone something to take home."

In his contribution titled Durbar: An Appreciation of John Oyedemi’s Paintings, Professor Shehu Imail Chafe, noted Durbar displays as "an elegant mosaic of personalities and paraphernalia consisting of, but not limited to the royal fathers, traditional title holders like the knights, the chiefs, warriors, body guards, and stewards.

Chafe, who is of Department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, wrote that the personalities behind Durbar come "with a mix of alluring costumes worn by participants, riding on horses adorned in beautiful costumes of captivating grandeur, befitting the status of the rider. Participants also include musicians and even court jesters, who serve and perform different functions and wear distin-ctive costumes that identify them from each other. 

Excerpts from his thoughts: "The aesthetics of durbar have inspired many Nigerian artists like Jimo Akolo, Gani Odutokun, Erhaboh Emokpae and others to produce paintings and sculpture based on its many captivati- ng themes. It has also been observed that durbar has not only been artistica- lly appreciated as a performance but also exploited for creative expression and research in painting by many Nigerian artists. 

"To the best of my knowledge, no  Nigerian contem- porary artist has been as consistent and prolific in the expression of durbar in painting, as John Oyedemi. His compositions on various themes display a deep knowledge of durbar performance. This translates into his painting of virtually almost all the themes of durbar in his works over the years. His durbar paintings are packed with colour, vigour, movement and action. At a glance, durbar displays an array of activities which render objects and participants, as indistinct elements. In John Oyedemi’s durbar themes, the distinct and the indistinct subjects and objects are united in a marriage of a colourful artistic convenience." 

Gallery Statement from Alexis:

“Over the years, the gallery has collected and shown the paintings of John Oyedemi. His unapologetic creative style and technique has no doubt stood the test of time. His works have achieved this feat by brilliant fidelity to their traditional roots, while also playing in the contemporary art genre.


John Oyedemi teaches Fine Arts at the University of Jos, Plateau State. 

"He has been practicing for more than two decades, dedicated and a master of his vibrant colours, his textural depth in which they are rendered. He has, in recent times, explored the usage of white space usually dotted in dominant tones of drops of colours, gray tones, and bluish tonalities in varying degrees. He is someone who feels that man’s effort to create provides him that rare privilege to the extent that frontiers of existence through his imagination. He shared this feeling in one of his interviews with Edozie Udeze during the pandemic. 

"John is unique in his boldness of colour application, to him, profound colours, judiciously splashed on canvas, is what makes an artist unique. The judicious use of colour on canvas has in no doubt been registered as his profound signature.

  “Talking Canvases shows the desperation of John’s effort to use his art as a tool and a platform that conveys his thought and ideas to the public at large through his paintings. It is known that artists tell their stories and also pass their messages through their art style, John on the other hand had gone theoretical with his painting. He paints and writes on his works, giving it a theoretical focus on issues that border on the society at large.

The show promises to be intriguing with the classical display of works of a master’s works that will play their part in strengthening the ever- vibrant Nigeria art and culture.”


The gallery explained that the exhibition’s virtual tour will also be published on the opening day, via social media handles; instagram- alexisgalleries, facebook- Thehomestores Alexisgalleries. 

“The gallery is pleased to announce that we will be partnering with Loving Gaze, Loving Gaze is an independent not-for-profit organization,  they serve the unprivileged community in Lagos and Taraba State, through educational activities, basic health care service, women empowerment and vocational training. The gallery is partnering by donating part of the exhibition proceeds to its course.” 

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