Saturday 29 October 2022

Stepping out of crowded black art with distinct Oresegun's skills

'Poised' (oil  on canvas, 120 cm x 153 cm, dated 2022), by Olumide Oresegun.

IN documenting art of the 21st century Africa, Olumide Oresegun takes a crucial spot. Even in the flooded space of black art, Oresegun brings a distinct texture different from the common blackened canvases, on walls everywhere.

Oresegun's work, which has been part of Nigeria's contemporary renaissance, keeps engraving more depth among generation of young artists who are sustaining art of figurative representation. Hyperrealism art in figurative painting, to be honest, predated 21st century African contemporary period. In fact, Nigeria boasted of the best of such artists within Africa and Diaspora, even in the past 80 years of its modernism. 

However, the emergence of Oresegun's art, over 10 years ago, opened a new chapter in the realism and hyperrealism rendition spaces. Perhaps, emerging from the young generation of artists, his art generated fresh interests in the smooth brush painting form, mostly among new art followers. Reason: art appreciation was transiting from the conservative old base to the realm of fresh and young collectors.

It's also to the credit of quite a number of young artists' boldness – Oresegun's popularity inclusive – that the sudden scepticism over figurative art's future started disappearing. For nearly 10 years in the first decade of the 21st century, the Avant Garde of the Nigerian art was growing in bounds. Leanings of more young artists towards non-figurative art sub-genre was further amplified by the unprecedented success of Prof El-Anatsui. The impressive commercial and critical ratings of the 'Ghanaian-born Nigerian master' led quite a Turks of young artists, mostly fresh from art schools, to embrace non-figurative and other 'conceptual forms' that flooded the country's art appreciation spaces. In fact, boosting the Avant Garde then was the coming of Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), in Yaba, Lagos, launched in 2007. Despite such intimidating rise in the non-figurative art, quite a few artists were still bold enough to stick with the traditional art form.

And coming at a period when the energy of the internet was growing fast, Oresegun's art turned out to be the most-followed on the social media, within the Nigerian context, between 2012 and few years after, perhaps till date. Currently building on his immediate rise to prominence, his art keeps creating high depth of interest, across art followers of all ages.

Every artist of realism or hyperrealism painting whose palette worth being distance from the crowd brings striking signature on to the canvas. For Oresegun, his art emerged with two identities: human skin colours of subtlety that radiates aura of innocence and realtime actions, mostly in splashes, sprouting, among other human contacts with water.

And as most spaces of African art contents seem to be flooded with dark or blackened skin figurative paintings – blurring the line of distinct creative strength of individual artists – Oresegun has chosen to be different. Yes, every black artist owes their African descent in lending a voice to the new consciousness, but Oresegun's expression in black identity, specifically, comes with more critical and creative approach. Among Oresegun's celebration of the black identity, in naturalism context – distinct from the  trending blackened canvas – are Ecologist 2 (oil on canvas, 153x128), 'Enhanced' (oil on canvas (153 X 128cm, 2017), 'Hydraulic Head 2' (oil on canvas, 48 X 54cm and 'Musa and Moses' (oil on canvas, 153 x 183cm, 2017). He explained that   "changing skin tones" to diverse hues is his style in depicting   "the adaption of African colours" in their Diaspora abode. Among such works he labeled as 'Saturated Identity', he said, are his attempt at probing the "concept of multiplicity as it relates to an average African identity."

Consciously or not, nearly every artist go through periods on a journey in mastery of their art. The distinct textures between Oresegun's early and his current paintings generates what can be termed as the artist's 'Black Period.' Whoever is interested in the scholarship of subjectivity that comes with painting black persons in a particular colour has Oresegun's rich hues of oeuvre as a resource. 

Creating more dramatic depictions, specifically, in the sci-fi kind, some of his works titled Felicity series explain the artist's dexterity. Again, Oresegun seemed to have been caught in the nostalgia of childhood adventure in the paintings. And perhaps placing the Felicity series within hi-tech frame, the paintings appropriate the new age of VR experience. 

 Within the exhibition circuits of contemporary African art, in the Diaspora, Oresegun keeps pushing for more depth. Adding to his international profile is the forthcoming art fair,  Spectrum Miami,  U.S, holding in December, 2022. From June-September 2022, he showed in an exhibition titled Patterns Perspective at Muzeo Museum, Anaheim, California, U.S.

Trained at School of Art Design and Printing, Yaba College of Technology , Lagos, where he graduated with Distinction in Painting, Oresegun, in 2011 had his debut solo exhibition  titled, Moment of Reason, at Mydrim Gallery, Lagos.

His works have featured in quite a number of international spaces, including auctions of Arthouse Contemporary, in Lagos and Sotheby's in London, among others.

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

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