Friday 15 April 2022

Critics, artists, historians scale Adeola Balogun's 'Transmogrification'

'Rare Specie III' (mild steel, stainless steel, electronic panel, 97 x 78 x 22inch, dated 2020), Adeola Balogun.

WHEN an artist's work attracts critique or review from his colleagues, the depth of creativity cuts deep into both critical and commercial appreciation spheres. Wrapped with such depth of appraisals is sculptor, Adeola Balogun's 13th solo art exhibition titled Transmogrification, which shows from April 16-25, 2022, at Signature Beyond Art Gallery, 107, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.

Balogun, who is Head Of Department, School of Art, Design & Printing Technology, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, brings his solo exhibition as a link that connects the ordinary people and the intelligentsia on the future of tech and its effects on humans.

Excerpts from diverse views on Transmogrification

"In form and material technology; the visual artist is often exposed and guided in the exploration of indigenous and conventional qualities of materials utilized for his or her visual art processes. This often helps to explicate their dexterity (mastery) in the use of these materials in enhancing, the comprehension of forms and materials; enabling the visual artist to: know the strength and weakness of materials, have the knowledge in constraint analysis, explore and utilize indigenous materials as artworks, have the ability or creative propensity to innovate independently and to acquire the skill to design ideas and find solutions that are innovative and enterprising; aligned to the domiciled indigenous cultural affinities and available entities.

"Balogun has explored and used various materials at his disposal. Some as found objects and aptly referred to as waste art by Orimolade (2011 02), does not mean all his experimental works are found objects. This is where I disagree with many scholars. The present day Nigerian visual artist; though more conspicuous among sculptors, often times predetermine many utility objects needed to align with their envisaged forms or shapes in their deliberations. Balogun uses diverse materials, from found objects to predetermine objects, that will align with each creative work. This alone, requires enormous vision and thought forms for an appropriate composition to be achieved. These are the rudiments of exploration, which leads to innovations, and when consolidated; it evolves into a successful viable and salient visual experimentation. Visual experimentations often create a curio sensation in any milieu…one may ask? because it is ever unique, exotic, votive and with lots of allegorical connotations. What exudes from this visual phenomenon, is what Orimolade (2011) refers to as a visual suspense in experimentations.

"This sculptors’ material is diverse in compositional formats and dimensions; either in the organic or inorganic; he utilizes them to fulfill or attain his inner premonitions. He is a master of various types of metals, ranging from iron (mainly ferrous based), wrought iron, steel (which contains carbon in any amount up to about 1.7 percent as an essential alloying constituent, and it is malleable when under suitable conditions, and is distinguished from cast iron by its malleability and lower carbon content.10 Steel is often less corrosive to weather, hence its advantage (over time-phase in rusting). There was a period he explored and experimented successfully using the solid and air pneumatic tires. Pneumatic tires consist of synthetic rubber, natural rubber, fabric, wire and some chemical compounds, often mixed in certain proportions with carbon black. They are flexible, durable, heat resistant, water resistant and possess lots of traction qualities. Balogun took a salient advantage of these properties in using the pneumatic tires in creating monumental indoor and out-door sculptures."

Taken from 'Form and Material Technology in his Labyrinthine Morphology' is one of the topics from Prof Rukeme Noserime's FORM AND MATERIAL TECHNOLOGY IN MODERN NIGERIAN ART: A Prolegomenon of Adeola Balogun’s Labyrinthine Morphology, His Visual Innovations and Explorations as Salient Experimentation (2022). -Rukeme Noserime, PhD, (Professor of Visual Arts-Painting and Aesthetics), Faculty of Art, Design and Printing Technology Fine Art Department, Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos.

"In 1939, the 9 century AD Igbo-Ukwu bronzes which again unveils a new creative experience in media exploration was discovered. The rare detailed character of the works provokes questions that counter Eurocentric thoughts of Africa as a dark continent without technological prowess before contact with the West. Also first life. In the new mode, their identity is subsumed as means to attaining a higher muse of aesthetic order in response to the artist's vanity. In this context one can argue over and over again that Balogun's media TRANSMOGRIFICATION (etymologically late 14 century) is another war field for the age long artist ploy to wholesomely and absolutely exploit media. The closest win of media over form may be Barbara Hepworth's wooded Single volume sculpture, Piet Mondrian's colour blocks, Brancusi's Bird in flight, Jackson Pollock's pigment splashes, Duchamp's “Urinary” and Warhol's “Brillo Boxes” concepts and installations, yet it is obvious that the altar of content seems to have prevailed. I patiently await the revolt of media against the connived plot of Form and Content. After all, without media there is no form and content.

"In TRANSMOGRIFICATION, Balogun's found objects (discards) tales their tortuous journey from their original sphere of relevance to loosing it and being thrown away; of how they got picked up somehow, found their way into the art studio and became materials to invent a new life which was never envisioned in their original first life. In the new mode, their identity is subsumed as means to attaining a higher muse of aesthetic order in response to the artist's vanity. In this context one can argue over and over again that Balogun's media TRANSMOGRIFICATION (etymologically late 14 century) is another war field for the age long artist ploy to wholesomely and absolutely exploit media. The closest win of media over form may be Barbara Hepworth's wooded Single volume sculpture, Piet Mondrian's colour blocks, Brancusi's Bird in flight, Jackson Pollock's pigment splashes, Duchamp's “Urinary” and Warhol's “Brillo Boxes” concepts and installations, yet it is obvious that the altar of content seems to have prevailed. I patiently await the revolt of media against the connived plot of Form and Content. After all, without media there is no form and content.

"In the works on display, from the discards of computer electronic boards, canned beverages drink bottom, metal pieces, saxophone and boggle horns bars, one can invoke a cosmopolitan associated junkyard as source for the studio explorations. Their use within the compositional format showcases Balogun's depth for orderliness and aesthetic rightness. Yet one must attest that the artist is a slave to society whose bidding as register and recorder role he/she must fulfill.

"By this exhibition, Balogun has once more served the outcome of his studio forage for our delight and enjoyment. As audience, patrons and critics, the works will definitely hit us from different perspectives, but they remain absolutely true to themselves in their mission of expressing society. Within the gamut of this reality, Balogun's rummage around in unfathomable depths of the junkyard has ingeniously birthed new media and possibilities as “Rare Species”. His audacious authority in studio mastery cannot be glossed over. I therefore congratulate him and salute his courage." -Excerpts from 'TRANSMOGRIFICATION: Adeola Balogun's unfathomable depth for new possibilities in media metamorphose', written by Professor Nelson Edewor (FSNA) President, Sculptors Association of Nigeria (ScAN).

"Analysis of Artwork

"Head Series six works are 'Fela Inspiration', 'Dominance I, II and III', 'My Pony Tail', and 'Iron Horse'. The eight artworks under Power Play are 'The Head that Wears the Crown', 'Where is the Emir', 'Wired', 'Hooked' and 'Hooked to Online II', 'AI', 'Encapsulated', and 'Deadly Crown'. Spirituality has three works, namely; 'Man and Spirit in Vanity', 'Transcendence' and 'Meditation'. Seven works belonged to Music and Dance, they are 'Dance Gyration I, II and III', 'Guitar Soundspiration I and II' as well as 'Sounds and Signs I and II'. Labyrinthine Morphology has four works, they are 'Labyrinthine Morphology I, II, III, and IV'. 'Rare Species I, II, III, and IV' are the four works in Fishes.

"All the mixed media on paper artworks were produced in 2020, and they are in two different sizes. If the sizes of the works are not 18 x 24 inches, they will be 27 x 21 inches. For example; “Deadly Crown”, “Transcendence”, “Meditation”, and “Hooked”, among others, are 18 x 24 inches works, while “Dominance I and II”, “Wired” “Iron Horse”, “Encapsulated”, and “AI”, among others, are 27 x 21 inches art pieces.

"While the two-dimension work sizes for the show are limited to two different sizes, the sizes of the hybrid sculptures that will be displayed are as varied as they come. “Where is the Emir”, 102 x 85 x 27 inches, is the biggest hybrid sculpture among the exhibits. The second-largest sculpture is “Rare Specie III”, 97 x 78 x 22 inches. It is also the biggest of the four fish-inspired series that will be on display. “Sounds and Signs II”, 66 x 45 x 8 inches, comes in the related size of sculptures in this genre of formal finishing.

"Head Series

"The head in traditional African belief has both physical and spiritual coupled with psychological interpretation and connotation. The head is not just about the skull, brain, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, jaws, hairs, and whatever is visible or subjected to reality to mankind. Spiritually or metaphysically, the head is the site of wisdom and knowledge as well as the symbolic essence of one's destiny. It embodied and represent the spiritual before the physical essence of humans. It is believed that one should give more realistic and symbolic/ spiritual significance to the head, even before worshipping or according respect to deities in traditional African religion. Man or woman must be on good terms with his/ her head, since; one's destiny, which is symbolized by the head, is everything in life. Physically, if the head dies, the whole body dies. If anything good or bad happens to the head, it will affect the whole body. The aforementioned facts reveal the importance of the head to humans and other creatures. Thus, Balogun used his conscious and unconscious Head Series to creatively and artistically comment on the significance of the head to mankind.

"As noticed in Balogun's “Fela Inspiration”, he employed a translucent-like/ reflective silhouette form of the head of the late iconic Afro-Beat music founder and genius, Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938-1997), to visually discuss and recount his virtuoso musical supremacy and sociopolitical as well as human right historical vibrancy and inspirational stance that seems to be lacking in contemporary Nigeria of the 21st century. Nigeria is presently in dire need of Fela's inspirational satires and ingenious melodies as well as commentaries on the maladies of Nigeria towards a better nation and continent, Africa. Fela was a Pan-Africanist and traditionalist of note, thus; “Fela Inspiration” by Balogun is definitely a clarion call to our heroes past and present to help us out in whatever form in our quest and umpteenth desire for a better country, continent, and world. But, surely we all know that 'God helps those who help themselves'. Government is the people and vice versa. Nigeria and Nigerians had better start doing the right things to improve and reduce the rot in the society before it is too late.

“Dominance I and II” are visual commentaries on the unique significance of the head to symbolize the essence of a man or woman as well as other creatures. In the two mixed media works, Balogun tried to honour a late senior colleague, Nsikak Essien (1957-2020), from a holistic perspective of good deeds in life being worthy of celebration than a history of success with blood stains and terrible tales of malevolent deeds. Essien was a great and reputable Nigerian artistic genius that one can be proud of. Balogun used Essien in a symbolic silhouette form with electronic panels just like in “Fela Inspiration” to create a unique image that shows his creative diversity in reference to Essien's painterly and mixed media/ multimedia dexterity during his lifetime. “Dominance I and II” were employed by Balogun as an artistic statement that we should celebrate the superb creatives, and worthy others, among us while they are still alive. “Dominance III” follows the same creative sequence as in "Dominance I and II", though not as artistically dominating as the first two. While “Dominance I” is a back view translucent-like portrayal of the head and torso, “Dominance II” is a front view silhouette inspired formal depiction of the head and torso, whereas “Dominance III” is a translucent- like side view artistic juxtaposed image of the head and torso. The three works are focused on the human head from a holistic to specific perspective; whether physical, psychological or spiritual. They formally and contextually dwell on the symbolic significance of the human head." From 'Adeola Balogun's Sublime Transmogrified Oeuvre' by Rasheed Amodu, Artist, Art Historian/ Critic, Surulere, Lagos. March 16, 2022.

"Signature Beyond, since inception in 1990, through several group and solo art exhibitions, has offered the uterine wall quite friendly to the development of art interpretation in Lagos and London. Through this current exhibition therefore, titled Transmogrification, in partnership with Adeola Musiliu Balogun, an artist per experience in excellence with a PhD in Sculpture, the goal is to cross breed experience with environment bearing in mind the set target of achieving a hybrid formula in artistic expression with a soft landing on the cushion of social-political engineering targeted at human prosperity, globally.

"Sculpture has always been defined as the process and art of forming real things in experience, and by implication, a medium of transmogrification, but in the case of this fine artist, the concept seems to query the conventional methods and materials; protesting the detachment of many artists from their identitarian environment as expected to reflect in their work.

"Balogun is inspired by time, significant to human and material development as well as technological degeneration of the times, hence, uses found and discarded objects as well as scraps from broken electronics as raw materials for creating mixed media sculptural forms. His work, Hooked, from the series, Electrifying, which is an exploration of mixed media in painting, for instance, is evident to his protest against the negative effects of the tech age on the ecological value of the planet, hinging on the safety of humanity and environment.

"To art Collectors, Patrons and all art seers present, welcome to Transmogrification, a visual dinner globally served. Happy viewing!" Excerpts from 'Transmogrification' by Ike, Chiemezie Gerald Artist / Art Diplomat.

"Dr. Adeola Balogun's latest offering - latest in his series of clearly themed and experimental exhibitions - is determined to give a much louder voice to visual expressions for which he has gained considerable prominence.

"First of all, he completely destroys the traditional barrier dividing the regions of fine arts, defying distinctions between painter, sculptor, ceramicist, colourist etc. And it has been long in coming. In an interview given some years back, he introduced himself simply as a visual artist. That meant all-rounder, someone able to speak in visual languages not a few. It is like the writer who rejects the appellation of poet, novelist or dramatist, or an international citizen who straddles multiple national boundaries as a native in everyone.

"That open field is defined not in words only but also by the outcomes of his creative adventures. And I find in this latest outing the boldest or loudest acclamation of his creative consciousness so far.

"First he employs found objects in two dimensional and multidimensional metal constructions. Many pieces are framed as wall hangings, as though they were framed painted works. We are compelled to recall that Balogun is sometimes also a painter. He has actually exhibited paintings or been mistaken for a painter in a solitary sense! And that is only the beginning of it. He has explored discarded pneumatic tyre, wood, ceramics, cement concrete as well as terracotta. Aspects of the regular steel creations are sometimes dubbed in brilliant paint or burnished to present remarkable objects of beauty.

"We recall very well that the core materials are waste - metal or other materials which are repurposed. In this genre of art, materials are on their second journeys of usefulness having served their original essence before they were discarded. The message of waste to wealth is taken much further to stress that the second coming of the material is by far more significant and more imbued with meaning and value than the first! I mean, in practical terms, what were the original market values of the objects as erstwhile commodities compared to their current market standing at an exhibition or auction?"

 From The Message Is Intensified' by Dapo Adeniyi.

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