|One of the works titled 'Afrikanishe Frau' (African Woman' on display at the exhibition.|
By SIMEON MPAMUGOH
Performance art and photography were the hallmark of the first solo exhibition mounted by Eghosa Omoruyi, otherwise known as TobiDPhotographer. The artist is a graduate of mechanical engineering from Petroleum Training Institute, Delta State.Titled Painterly, the exhibition featured over 15 framed works of photography and wearable art of the 25-year-old artist who found renaissance very interesting and ventured into it. His love of art made him to express himself in the genre, bringing out the imaginations of his mind to life.
His photography began in 2018 when he obtained vast knowledge in photoshop through his mobile device and laptop. He took the stride fully in 2019 when he obtained his first camera.
The body of work on display at the exhibition appeared distinct from photographs but critical previews indicate that they are indeed fine art of photographs and not painting as imagined by some viewers of his works.
'Painterly' took place recently at the magnificent Hunters Restaurant and Eatery, Abule Odu, Egbeda Lagos.
TobiDPhotographer told Journalists that his kind of photography was rare. He cited dictionary definition of Painterly. "It is a term that describes a set of qualities that are perceived as being distinct to the art of painting."
He noted that many artists "don't make it in Nigeria because we don't value art," adding that for him, "it has been so far so good. I can say that people appreciate my works and I'm grateful to them."
The exhibiting artist said that the artworks were those he produced in the last three years, adding that some of them were new and had not been shown anywhere.
He expressed gratitude to his father who encouraged him to pursue a career in fine art photography saying, "my father is liberal minded. Although he wanted me to finish my education before pursuing a career in photography but I was smart to get my camera before my graduation."
On how he arrived at the title of the exhibition, he said, "Frankly speaking, before I got the title it took me lots of time. It came by divine intervention. I was in church praying about the exhibition and the word Painterly popped up and it resonated with me. I searched it out. and it fitted within my line of photography.
"Since I began to pursue fine Art photography as a career, people see my works and thought they were painting until I set the record straight and they were surprised.
"I have had a lot of reviews from different social media age groups in Nigeria and abroad and their opinions are the same; that my work looks like a painting. Even in Twitter and Instagram platforms where my works had enjoyed large following, but the truth is that they are actually photograph works.
"I always love the old masters painting like the Haunch of Venison art where I learnt to draw the line between a photograph and painting. I want to keep the legacy of the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and his ilks who keep their works in digital forms."
He explained why most of the works captured female models and nudity. "Technically, It is hard to photograph guys. The way I approach photography is different. I believe that the art of photography is to tell stories and you find the storylines more from females through their body postures especially from talented models."
With camera and laptop, the artist engaged in photo manipulation by getting news online and manipulate them. He explained further, "before I acquired my camera, I used to borrow camera from my friends. In some cases I use my phone. It was when I procured my camera that I began to deepen my passion in fine art photography. It is regrettable that fine art photographers had not really had a big break in Nigeria because it is not yet recognized.
"People focus more on events photography but for me, I want to engage in what I'm passionate which is fine art. To an extent, I have been able to get some good number of interests after some years. In 2020, I was able to get some recognitions from Instagram. As a result of this, my followers grew exponentially. Since then, I've been getting positive feedbacks about my works. I have featured in some online exhibitions. Today, my works are shown in the United States of America."
He shared his source of energy and inspiration. "My father had a film camera and as a little boy, I was always playing and clicking with it until I spoilt it. I later developed interests in checking on all the Venison art, the old masters who are creative in their painting. As a mechanical engineer, you have to also be creative. And I have an idea of what it takes to be creative. So, whatever I imagined I jotted down and recreated it with my laptop.
"Some of my images on the exhibition have some props. I could see something and begin to imagine how to merge it to photograph in order to create a style. Most times I work with some friends who are stylists and makeup artists; I tell them what I have in mind, how I want it to be portrayed and we will sketch, and the results will be amazing."
Amazingly, the works on display by the artist were titled in German language with English as subtitles. He explained: "I studied German language at some point during the COVID-19 era, as well as in my spare time. I got fascinated by the language, and some of the old Masters in painting were from Germany and Italy. So, I got intrigued by what they do and decided to be naming my works in their language even though the images still relate to some of the things we do in Nigeria. In my future exhibitions I plan to pay more attention to Nigeria culture."
On what he thinks about the acceptance of his works vis-a-vis government support for his form of art, Omoruyi intoned: "We have a lot of creatives among the youth groups who studied visual arts. We also know that Nigeria has a large percentage of vibrant youths that are looking for opportunities to positively deploy their talents and skills. Government needs to provide the enabling environment to put these youthful energy to work by creating galleries.
"In places like Germany and Italy, they have galleries that employ the creative young people. Nigeria government can also create galleries that offer young people opportunities to create and exhibit their work. At the end of the day, government can decide to collect 10 percent tax when such works are sold out and the remaining percentage goes to the artists who created the works. This will enable the artist to create more works. And with that, we would be able to inspire more young artists to channel their energy to productive use. Don't forget that creating galleries by government will equally open employment opportunity to curators."
He disclosed that he had some online exhibitions last year whereby he sent some of his works on Twitter and people viewed and stake on it. "Because of the jurisdiction of Twitter space, you can easily create a crowd and post your works; and people ask questions. So, Twitter created the platform for people to show their works."
While speaking on the relationship between art and entertainment, the sponsor of the exhibition and Chief Executive Officer, Hunters Restaurant and Eatery, Mr Paul Omoruyi said that art and entertainment were inseparable.
The father of the artist noted that entertainment on its own is an art. "The two move together. And this is why we have an entertainer as an artiste.
"My son read mechanical engineering and today he is into fine art photography. I believe that parents should not force on their children what career to pursue. So long as they have flair for it, there should be no option than to back them up," he added.
He however, warned parents who insist that their children should not pursue a career in art to halt it as this was a worst disservice parents can do to their children."
The Hunters Restaurant and Eatery helmsman said that there were a lot of problems besetting the art scene in Nigeria. "When you talk about art and artists in the past, people's eyes will go to the man wearing dreadlocks and addicted to cigarette smoking and drinking but today this is changing and these young ones are the ones changing the face of art in Nigeria. Imagine a qualified engineer taking to visual art.
"Those days artists were seen as commoners and misfits in the society but there's a paradigm shift. Although the art world is still growing, Africans are the true custodians of art, beginning with woodwork. The Benin are good in bronze and our artifacts are still in the United States of America (USA) and other parts of the world, which we are battling to bring back home, and this tells you that visual art trade is in our vein, it is hereditary. And if we're still talking about 200 years old artifacts, it means that art has outlived those artists."
One of works entitled Liebe Technik Frauen is a missive to dear tech woman entreating her to bloom despite social constraints and stereotypical construct. Bloom and become all that you were created to be. "Don't try to fit in, don't sit still, don't ever try to be less than who you are, and when someone tells you that you are different, smile, hold your head up high, and be proud."
There is no more powerful pillar of stability than a strong, independent and educated woman. Over 20 pieces of finely framed and wearable art were on display at the event. Other titles of the works in German language included Amor Erschossen (Cupid Shot) and Afrikanische Frau (African Woman).