As part of efforts to groom and mentor young artists, Universal Studios of Arts at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, will show eight artists in its debut Future Masters Series-Generation billed to hold from Friday, June 23, 2017 at Mydrim Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos. Organised in collaboration with Mydrim Gallery, a mentor of the young artists, Abiodun Olaku, said Universal Studios’ efforts in creating more platforms for the younger generation was crucial.
The exhibiting artists include Emeka Nwagbara, Segun Fagorusi, Oyewole Olufemi, Opedun Moses Damilola, Olufunke Oladimeji, Ezekiel Osifeso, Salako Olajide Peters and Chinedu Uzoma. Each artist has about 10 works to show.
According to Olaku, “Art is becoming more expansive, and with this progression we have some major and unending dialogues on what art should be, especially with new terminologies coming up. Often times, the debate is contentious, which has a gross effect on the mentality of the younger ones who are still quite impressionable.”
He said he was privileged to engage and interact with younger artists, saying, “We have been able to discover that there is a lot of confusion in their minds on what area to concentrate on. So, many issues they need clarity on. The noise on what art should be is getting louder; major stakeholders are bringing things on the table and they want to impress it on others as art. The very colourful fragmentation of who we are, like the religious, ethnic parts, but we need to streamline them and understand the essence of what art is, and why somebody is an artist.”
Olaku lamented the unhealthy environment in the market place of art, which has negative impact on young artists, saying, “the ultimate one being the auction houses. We need to consciously guide the younger ones who are still going through the confusing stage of processing and building their brand. Many have been derailed from their very positive trajectory, which harbored a lot of potentials for them. Though there is always politics in all human endeavours, everybody has the right to protect his or her interests.”
He stated that the intent is to have the exhibition in series and phases, where young artists are identified and groomed. Olaku identified some of the misconceptions of the past to include lecturers telling students that art is not about money, as it is totally different on the field, where they have to merge theory with reality.
“Lecturer who tells you so earns a salary; every human must be compensated for service rendered. We say it’s not about money but when our works get on the auction, they are sold at staggering amount, and we don’t have a secondary legislation to oversee what happens at that level. Local art works sold for N10,000 could be sold for N2 million on the global stage. It is good though, as it helps the artist put value on his work.
“Nigerian art is in focus on the global stage; we have artists in the diaspora doing the art for us but we need to have a bigger chunk of our art out there by grooming these young artists locally. I think the galleries as well as the artists need to strategise on how to get the art on the global stage.”
Director of Mydrim Gallery, Mrs. Sinmidele Adesanya, who has kept the business running for 25 years, appreciated Olaku for his effort in trying to sanitise the art industry. She, however, pointed out that discussions have been going on in recent times on what constitutes contemporary art in the market and how it should be approached.
For Nwagbara, the theme speaks about new generation that would take over the space of art in Nigeria. One of his works ‘Executive Lobby,’ according to him, was inspired in 2012 at a hotel lobby in Lagos, with a particular scene fascinating him. He admitted that getting the background right was difficult and it took him several years to complete.
Damilola, on the other hand, said, “The curator chose us, I believe, because he knows we are competent to fulfill a purpose when it comes to art practice in the coming years. He said ‘How not to kill a monument’ is a painting of the 65-year old Olaiya building, which was demolished recently. For him, the interesting thing about the building was that it was built by Brazilians.
He noted, “This building greatly contributed to our history as African people, but its demolition only shows our lack of history appreciation. We know that it is difficult for any country to move forward without appreciating its history. Keeping record and history appreciation is what I want us to be mindful of.”
Fagorusi said he likes to document traditional scenes of real people and activities, noting, “I schooled in Ile-Ife and growing up in Ibadan exposed me to a lot of traditional scenes that fascinated me so much. I learnt about the talking drum and, over the years, I developed interest in our music and tradition. I am trying to bring back the culture through my paintings before the stories are altered, to show the world that this is the way some people lived.”
Olufemi also stated that he loves traditional landscape that speaks about the true nature of the people, pointing out, “I love classical music; I have been working with oil but recently, I decided to try charcoal just to move outside my comfort zone. One of the works I have here is ‘Handel.’ Classical music gives me a feeling of serenity, an emotion that is unspeakable. I am interpreting classical music in figures through the use of charcoal.”