Friday 9 February 2024

For Balogun, Sculptor's Odyssey Award of ArtMiabo 'apt, timely'

Dr Adeola Balogun.

THE 2024 edition of ArtMiabo International Art Festival (AMIAF), themed Sculptor's Odyssey seemed to be gathering more steam as a unique exhibition of medium-specific event. One of the exhibiting artists and awardees, Dr Adeola Balogun spoke about the importance of Award dedicated to sculpture, among other related-factors concerning sculptors.

Balogun belongs in the generation of artists lifting metal sculpture in Nigeria. Within and outside Nigeria, Balogun has done quite a number of commissioned, private and experimental pieces, some of which are academic and commercial. 

Organised by Miabo Enyadike, and curated by Yusuf Durodola, the 2024 edition of AMIAF, which holds from April 29-May 1, 2024, at EbonyLife, Victoria Island Lagos, will also feature Sculptor's Odyssey Award for select artists. Included in the awardees list with Balogun are Prof. Ben Enwonwu, for Posthumous Award, Pius Waritimi, Dotun Popoola and Adebisi Adebayo. Out of the four awardees, Enwonwu is the only non-exhibiting artist at the event.

Enyadike noted that the 'Sculptors Odyssey awardees included Balogun based on his pedigree as "a globally recognized multimedia artist who has made substantial contributions as both a sculptor and mentor, particularly in the realm of education." Balogun's career as an artist and lecturer at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, has contributed to the development of sculpture, within and outside Nigeria 

 "I found the ArtMiabo Award initiative very apt and timely. In other genres of arts, such as music, theatre, etc, there are myriads of awards being organized annually for the promotion of such arts; visual art should not be an exception," Balogun stated during a chat. "Since we have different genres of visual arts, I encourage other art organizations, art aficionados, individuals, and corporate establishments, to toe similar line. Without mincing words, such efforts will inspire artists to exert more effort in their practice as the recognition and reward are bound to follow."

Looking forward to the award, Balogun explained that the honour from ArtMiabo is a testimony to the fact that his studio practice has been recognized, despite not being a social media individual "This also alludes to the fact that whatever one is doing, people are watching."

Balogun exhibited at the maiden edition of AMIAF in 2022. Two years after, he returns to the event with fresh concepts. He disclosed that whatever he is showing at ArtMiabo 2024 has link to his art philosophy 2024 of experimentation and exploration with as many as diverse materials. "This notion has constantly kept me on my toes; therefore, my studio practice keeps on evolving. I'm working on a new bodywork that happens to be an extension of the circuit board series. Part of this new body of work will be presented at the Artmiabo International Art Festival, in 2024."

As an established artist whose focus include mentorship, Balogun highlighted challenges that young artists of sculpture specialization encounter after school. "I always tell my mentees that you do not study sculpture because you want to make quick cash; that can only happen elsewhere. Every field of endeavour has its gestation period. This admonition is an attempt to prepare their psyche for the likely tough time ahead. One of the challenges that usually stares a young graduate of visual art, particularly, a sculptor in the face is funding. Unlike other climes where artists easily access grants or support for their practice, the narrative is quite different in our environment. As I stated earlier, my practice is material exploration biased; this is my way of demonstrating to my students the need to engage discarded materials in their studio practice- it is usually cheaper because the world will not accept excuses for not being productive."

Perhaps, sculpture has an edge in public space art compared to painting. But that advantage is not being fully taken by sculptors as more sculptures are in private collections in Nigeria than being public spaces. It does seem that sculptors in this part of the world prefer private collections to public space art. Balogun agreed. He however noted that "the dream of every sculptor is to have landmark monuments, not only in his environment but beyond."  

He argued that the real challenge of sculptors in Nigeria lies in governments' friendly policies to public space art. "Akin to most sectors in Nigeria, we seem to have a predilection to be represented by less qualified amongst us. This is because the commissioners of public sculptures are ready to sacrifice quality for pecuniary gains. As such, sculptors who know their onions will hardly have the opportunity to handle such projects. This explains why we have more sculptures in private collections than in public spaces."

As regards art of metal medium, perhaps collectors need more education as regards the fear of corrosion. "The environment is one of the determinant factors of the nature of metal to be used," Balogun explained. "Metal as a nomenclature encompasses both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Where the former are very prone to corrosion, the latter can resist. Therefore, the onus on the artist to determine the one that best suits his purpose. There might not be much effect of the weather elements on an art piece executed with ferrous metals if it's indoors. However, the narrative will be different if the same work is located outdoors- the durability can not be guaranteed, especially, where the salinity of the water in the area is high."

Dr Adeola Balogun, who is currently a lecturer at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos had his staged his 13th solo exhibition, themed: Transmogrification at Signature Beyond Art Gallery, Lagos in 2022. Some of his past exhibitions include Current Rhythm CAMAA (2019), Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan; Tribute to Fela (2019), Galleri Astley, Uttersberg, Sweden; Bubbles of Emotion (2017), Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos; Connections I & II (2015), Galleri Astley and Galleri Pumphause, Uttesberg and Trollhattan, respectively, Sweden, among others.

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