‘Metamorphosis’ by Rueben Ugbine
One of the single, most relevant spaces during the current month of art season in Lagos is no doubt the gathering that includes artists whose careers have contributed immensely to the development of the city’s art profile over the past three decades. Among such artists are Kolade Oshinowo, Reuben Ugbine, Abiodun Olaku, Sam Ovraiti, Bunmi Babatunde, Edosa Ogiugo, Alex Nwokolo, Duke Asidere, Lekan Onabanjo, Diseye Tantua, Fidelis Eze Odogwu and Joshua Nmesirionye.
From Distinction series art exhibition, which held for two editions, the artists are gathered again under the name Infinite Treasures III, billed to hold from November 4 at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos. Apart from Onabanjo and Nmesirionye, all the other artists showed at last year’s edition.
A preview of the exhibition confirms that indeed the seed which most of these artists and others of their generation sowed have grown into today’s fruits of shades of art events across the city, particularly in November every year. Oshinowo, as a guest artist in Infinite Treasure III, reverberates his role model status of an artist whose career has inspired quite a number of artists in this part of the world. Oshinowo’s affinity to Lagos, Nigeria’s spot of cultural convergence, keeps strengthening his canvas across generations, so explain works such as ‘Owambe,’ ‘Grandma,’ ‘Evening Market’ and ‘Before the Party.’
The resilience of basic value in the dispensary of art oozes from the strokes of Oguigo at the Infinite Treasures III show. In fact, all his works at the exhibition stress the value of drawing, as masterly radiated in pieces such as ‘My Mother’ in monochrome; ‘Seated Model’ in colour with embossed effect, and a hazy streetscape titled ‘Memories,’ which coalesces nature at the depth of creative exuberance.
In lavishness of depth, boosted by dominating shades over spots of lighting, Olaku lifts his mastery of waterscape skyline of riverside slum painting in a piece titled ‘The Retreat.’ With Olaku’s dexterity in capturing real time action, particularly of animated reflection of sun on water surface and smoking spots, you can hardly get a saturated sense of appreciating this common theme.
Nwokolo continues translating of his familiar painting themes of crowd effect onto more radicalised mixed media. Among such pieces is ‘The Caliphate’ in a space of 12 wrapped figures in relief texture, depicting a people’s culture of decency in religious fashion.
In addition to his style of exuding great aesthetics, Babatunde’s sculptures in recent times bring entertainment content. For this exhibition, among his works that lift sculpture in Nigerian art space to a new high of freshness are ‘Twisting Torso,’ (wood) and ‘Zoom’ (bronze).
From Ugbine comes a well-established style in smooth and simplified cubism form of sculpture. For those who love frieze kind of art, one of the sculptor’s works, ‘Metamorphosis,’ is thrilling enough to attract attention.
While paintings such as ‘What is the Colour of Your Song?’, ‘The Herd’ and ‘The Cloud,’ ‘Make-Up Generation’ and ‘Colourful Generation’ pay loyalty to Ovraiti’s signature, both in theme and aesthetic rendition, one work stands out as the artist’s new canvas. Titled ‘The Paradox of Indecision’ in acrylic and toned in coffee, the brownish hues and texture of images that form a ring around the central female images take Ovraiti’s style into another level of artistic finesse.
Asidere has no doubt created a profound signature with his seated-female figures that constantly keep abreast of the unfolding change in the socio-economic circle of Nigeria. However, in ‘A New Search, No Word’ and ‘The Experience,’ the artist has a fresh tone of colour, perhaps, posture too, for the seated figures.
Tantua spices the Infinite Treasure III gathering with his pop art flavour. Two of the works: one in compartment of nine and the other a single piece, both bring the artist’s mix of monochrome and colour rendition into the fore of his pop art style.
From his streetscape of alleyway series, Onabanjo, in recent times, has been churning out themes of domestic and corporate objects. But what looks like another addition to his new styles is ‘Solitary Walk To Freedom,’ an architectural piece that faintly projects human content.
In Nigeria’s sculpture space – traditional or contemprary – Odogwu’s work flows across the divides. For example, in unambigous heavy metal, with painterly tones, he brings into the show sculptures such as Ecstasy, ‘Heavenly Steps,’ ‘The Matron,’ ‘Exaltation and Emergence.’
As one of the two new entrants into the Infinite Treasure gathering, Nmesirionye comes with his figurative paintings of impressionist expression on roughened canvas. Either in aesthetic or critical appreciation, his works such as ‘Princely,’ ‘Afrocentric and Red Veil’ enrich the contemporary texture of the exhibition.
The yearly group exhibition, which started as Distinction about five years ago, has been growing in the number of participants each year. With two editions as Distinction series, the Olaku and Odogwu-initiated exhibition was changed to Infinite Treasures three years ago to emphasis the premium value of the works by the exhibiting artists.
“Though third in the Infinite Treasure series, but it is the fifth edition of self-driven concept celebrated across generations of Nigerian art landscape,” Olaku states ahead of the exhibition. “Oshinowo represents the older generation and Nmesirionye is of the new generation. It is meant to inspire younger generation for bargaining power.”
The 12 artists selected are based on preference, “but not compromising quality.”
Despite challenges in continuing the exhibition yearly such as lack of sponsorship support, the show, Olaku said, must continue. “When we started with the Distinction series of 2, we had supports then, but now we are being self-sponsored.”
For this group of artists and others, who are been full time studio artists, the richness of their art content comes first. In a country like Nigeria, where corporate sponsorship of the arts has always been wrongly prioritised to favour ‘razmataz’ of traffic at the expense of quality and true professionalism, it takes resilience and consistence for the artists of Infinite Treasures to keep afloat. But Olaku assured that “despite this constraint, nothing will stop the quality of works we are showing.”
One of the exhibiting artists, Ogiugo noted that the gathering from the onset “has shown that more collectors have emerged based on the qualitative works we have been showing.”
Nwokolo disclosed that the show, every year, serves as a platform “for me to display new works from my studio.”
On the state of art in Nigeria, OvraitI boasted: “We are not distracted.” He insisted that, “the show has pushed us to produce elements of surprise to give people our best.”
As a foundation member of the initiative, Odogwu stressed how the yearly exhibition “is another way to prove that artists too can manage their art by putting our best in this show.”
To stress the ability of the artists in the presentation of their works, Odogwu says the curatorial team remains the same, adding, “We are curating the exhibition as usual.”
Olaku and Odogwu are the curators of Infinite Treasures III. With five or six works from each artist made up of three sculptors and nine painters, the exhibition is the grand spot to be in the season of art in Lagos.