Friday 21 June 2024

Monochromes of feminity with Sholola's 'Be Here Now'

'Grounding I' (black tea, ink, charcoal, pastel and acrylic on canvas, 24 x 38in dated 2023) by Laju Sholola.

RENDERED in black tea, ink, charcoal, pastel and acrylic, the figurative expressions of Laju Sholola brings freshness onto the Lagos art space. Sholola's works, devoid of stereotypes loud colours, capture the tender, candid emotions of feminity.

Currently showing as her solo exhibition titled Be Here Now, at Yenwa Gallery, 1-7, Muri-Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, the paintings radiate the duality of life, in both visible and mystery contents. Sholola's style and technique have been shown previously in quite a number of exhibitions at Evanston Art Centre, Medium Tings, Mitochondria Gallery, USA; Kanbi Projects, UK; and Art X Lagos, Soto Gallery, Yenwa Gallery, Angels & Muse, Bloom Art Gallery, Rele, as well as Wunika Mukan Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria.

Ugonna Ibe, curator and founder at Yenwa Gallery noted that Sholola's works convey emotive feelings in an abstracted figurative style by applying a unique technique. In layering tea-infused brush strokes, Sholola "intricately highlights the contrast between what is visible and what is concealed," Ibe stated. "Rendered in subdued monochrome tones and featuring serene subjects, her works invite viewers into a realm of calm and reflection."

In a curatorial note, Ibe explained that Sholola's artistic strength lies in simplicity and deep thought, which energises her unconventional approach of infusing black tea with a variation of drawing materials to instill her artworks with a serene and thoughtful ambiance. This much has earned her exposures within and outside Nigeria, showing in exhibitions and galleries to audience across generations.

 "The figures, often portrayed in undergarments, nightwear, or swimwear, evoke a sense of vulnerability and introspection," Ibe noted. "Their averted gazes and closed eyes draw us into their private worlds, encouraging us to pause and reflect. In the quiet presence of Sholola's art, our own thoughts become amplified, prompting a deeper engagement with the emotions and narratives her pieces convey."

Some of the works on display include 'Lucid Dreams', 'Rest', Daydream', 'All Her Glory', 'Twofold' series, 'Be Here Now' series, 'Reverie' series, 'Reflections', and 'A Toast to the Moment', among others. These works and others explore the complexities of personal journeys towards self-actualization, which encourages viewers to embrace and celebrate the artist's transformative paths on a broader scale.

The curator highlighted pieces like 'Grounding I' and 'Grounding II', series, in which the artist explores the theme of balance and readiness for movement. For example, Ibe explained that the subject in 'Grounding I' "hugs her knees in a crouched position, embodying a moment of contemplation." For 'Grounding II', the artist, according to Ibe "assumes a stance reminiscent of a competitive runner, poised for action yet grounded," noting how the subject's focus directed beyond the viewer's gaze. Ibe stated that "these works capture the tension between stillness and motion, grounding and flight."

Yenwa Gallery statement further captured Sholola's depiction of solo, duo, and multiple subjects within her compositions, which speaks to the tranquility and quiet found even in company. Such example, according to the curator, exists in a piece titled 'Lucid Dream', which captures four women lie close together, evoking a sense of comfort and camaraderie. In the piece, there exists quite some rare thoughts of emotive energy. "These figures, comfortable in their silence, represent the welcome lull that follows a hearty conversation—a moment of rest before the next wave of thoughts and emotions," Ibe explained. "Through these varied compositions, Sholola explores the complex interplay between the desire for solitude and the need for companionship, highlighting the balance between introversion and connection."

Yenwa Gallery assured that Sholola's Be Here Now is an invitation to connect deeply with the present moment, to declutter our minds and lives, and to embrace the beauty of stillness and introspection. "We hope this exhibition inspires viewers to find solace and inspiration in the quiet spaces, fostering a deeper understanding of their own journeys and transformations."

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