Thursday, September 23, 2021

Filling mosaic art vacuum with Olaopa’s mission

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Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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As one of the oldest medium of visual representation, mosaic art, which origin dates back to the third millennium BC, is still, in contemporary era, mostly used for outdoor works. Perhaps confining it to outdoor, particularly in a country like Nigeria where the demand for it is not as regular, has been the reason for decline and weak appreciation.

Also, being a medium of art that requires artist’s painstaking attention in placing spots of materials to form clusters of image, quite a number of artists keep distance from the ancient-old art process. In Lagos, the most note able mosaic art in public space exists as murals along the tunnel-like road at Maryland – in and outward of Ojota, Lagos. Apparently, there are very few mosaic art in public spaces in Lagos and other big cities across the country, despite the durability of the medium on the walls compared to direct painting or frieze sculpture.

And to argue that mosaic art is not common in private space – just because of the challenge in creating it – may not be exactly correct. In fact, some artists, surprisingly, seem to specialise in this Bronze-Ages period of art. However, it takes microscopic view to get one of such artists, particularly in a Nigerian art space where the best of artists are full time professionals who have bills to pay like other career people in the creative industry..

A medium size wall piece mosaic in the moderate studio/office of artist, Oladele Olaopa attracts one’s attention and generates conversation on the fading spot of the medium in Nigeria. There is no doubt that low patronage is an issue, but demand from the public that is required to encourage good mosaic piece is not exactly the issue. The materials and perhaps intellectual energy of an artist appears to be more important. “Mosaic is a versatile and permanent wall-covering that requires thorough preparation of the wall,” Olaopa explains. Basically, wall covering or mural is mostly associated with mosaic; a well prepared wall thatwould resist environmental hostility is crucial.

Though an artist who claims he does mosaic quite often – either as mural or small wall piece – the urge to do more, he discloses. has always been in him. The challenge however is time and poor level of awareness among art enthusiasts.

If indeed, the art appreciation space in Lagos – public or private – needs to diversify its texture beyond the common medium of painting and sculpture, mosaic and frieze are too areas that have been grossly under used. From the year 2017, Olaopa hopes to lead the mosaic reawakening and consciousness in art appreciation.

Before Olaopa starts his mosaic art activism, he would need to consider that perhaps there are other factors that discourage art lovers from having mosaic in their private collections. Quite a number of mosaic art in public spaces, for example, hardly stand the test of time. Could it be that the challenge in restoration lacks the right expertise in this part of the world?
Lack of proper understanding in application of the medium as well as difficulty in getting the right materials, he notes, are the bane of regular production of mosaic art. “Some artists lack skill to identify genuine materials and therefore can’t achieve meticulous installation that mosaic art requires.” In supporting his claims, the artist mentions quite a number ot works in private locations (names withheld).

“I design and install unique mosaic murals in a range of styles and sizes to create a stunning permanent feature,” he boasts.
“Such works are guaranteed for life.”

Among his past works, in murals and wall hangings are a sprawling one in a private building (names withheld) and several portraits as well as abstracts. For example, the private building mural, interestingly, is the only outer layer surface of the house. Adding more aesthetics value is a geometric floor design that is sandwiched by the two wings of the building. “The abstract piece at the entrance of this building owes its attraction to the hot tropical colours that are also complemented by the potted plants that flank the entrance.”

A wall portrait piece titled Sisi Bisi celebrates the resilient Yoruba female fashion of buba (blouse) and gele. Enhancing the bright mood of the model is the artist’s application of dominant yellow. Olaopa further flaunts his mosaic skills in other two wall pieces, a geometric and portrait of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo.

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