Thursday 21 April 2022

Spotlighting elusive 'Carte Blanche' in Amoda's art of specificity

One of the installations, 'New Normal - The Divide Between Good and Evil' (welded mild steel Rods, Mesh, stainless steels and mirror, 320x320, 2019), by Olu Amoda.

THE delight in going through quite a number of art exhibitions within the Lagos art hub city of the two Islands, almost weekly, also comes with its challenge of struggling to, at least, write about as many possible of what could fall within "critics' choice." 

And in this era of digital alternative for writers in general and art reviewers to be specific, insufficient print page is no longer a hindrance. For sculptor, Olu Amoda's Carte Blanche, a solo art exhibition, which ran for over three months and ended March, 2022, at Art Twenty 21, Victoria Island, Lagos, it was a different situation; I almost missed seeing the show.

The Amoda's exhibition of sculptures and installations creates a dilemma on where to start viewing the sprawling body of work. Either for the strength of the artworks or the curatorial depth in space usage or both, it's a hard choice as one entres the gallery, this quiet Saturday afternoon. Well, it's Carte Blanche, anyway; tradition may rest, so the thought to start viewing the exhibition from the rare creeps in.

Traditionally, you want to start viewing an exhibition from the entrance of the gallery, at least to fulfill the perception of similarity with reading a novel from the first page. But the installation/sculpture at the extreme end of the gallery would like to obstruct that tradition as one is done reading Amoda's Artist Statement, placed right of the entire exhibits' immediate starting point.

And equally catching one's attention, right of the space, is another installation, New Normal - The Divide Between Good and Evil (welded mild steel Rods, Mesh, stainless steels and Mirror, 320x320, 2019). On 'New Normal...' sculpture, I guess those maquette-like wall pieces enhance the space, more as additive collectible than whatever academic narrative they are meant to generate. Also, their pattern of display on the wall, is a great delight in art of space or sight-specificity.

Amoda's Catche Blanche, so centrally themed, overviews the absolute power mentality of either states or individuals. And quite apt, the Jamal Kashoggi case, justifiably too, comes into the artist's radar as an example of impunity by political office holders or state-policy direction. Seeing the exhibits, quite a number of things run through one's mind. The Saudi Arabia government and their like, are not different from the hardliners of the western world model democracy. In other forms; the west are also guilty of getting rid of many Kashoggis, metaphorically, who become victims of neocolonialism adventures.

Interestingly, it's more thoughtful seeing Amoda's work at the period that the US, NATO and Russia are flexing muscles, sadly, in Ukraine, a country stranded on an island of failed politics of international conventions. Within the context of Carte Blanche, and whatever it means to manage freedom, across board, the illusion of being free without measure of trading off some rights, even as a sovereign state, is fragile when weak neighbours feel unfairly treated.

And now, to the the installation at the extreme end: one sees a revisit of the naughty issue of cattle rearing in Nigeria as the work titled Ruga, dated 2020-2021, brings the usual narrative of most Nigerians in the prism of 'we Vs them'. Quite some spots such as red lit under herds of cattle, threads of red, dripping off the mesh or tying the wall piece to the floor, all suggest that Ruga could not be trusted. Again, Amoda highlights the issue of poor crisis management, in general, using the Ruga factor as a metaphor to capture the mentality of people who know little or nothing about managing crisis, yet claiming to set standard in leadership.

For art outside the critical realm, Amoda expands the aesthetics of his oval technique in seven pieces mounted left of the gallery space. Apart from Atite Funfun series of two, glazed in white, all others, to an extend, sustain the natural texture of metal, despite being bathe in one paint or the other.  The artist's Sunflower series, interestingly, keeps evolving in diversed forms. Within the commercial context, it appears like an expanding success. I don't care how much of critical themes are enshrined; the aesthetics are enough captivating factors.

-Tajudeen Sowole is Lagos-based writer on The Arts. 

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