The artist is the opposite of the politically minded individual, the opposite of the reformer, the opposite of the idealist. The artist does not tinker with the universe, he creates it out of his own experience and understanding of life. In life when all else is lost, art holds fast, and that is the good news about art. Good news is the desire of every lover of good thing. In these days of depressing headlines, uncertainty and odd occurrences all around us, good news is very welcome.
What good news could there be at a period when the year 2016 comes to an end and everyone looks ahead with hope into 2017? The good news is that art is life, and this is the reason for the ‘Good News Exhibition.’ The exhibition brings to our visuality, with palpable imagery and in an innocuous manner, the catharsis of the artist – Taiwo Owoyemi’s own good news. The efforts in this exhibition, in uncanny manner, attempt to define the artist’s personality -artistic, religious and sociable.
With dream of stardom, Owoyemi’s resilience and search for new grounds to launch his artistic leap is set in this, ‘Good News Exhibition.’ Owoyemi is a committed artist and a believer in virtuous proclivity. The titles of his works on exhibit here easily give him out. “Still Patriotic” is a mixed media (2x4ft), featuring a damsel, sleek and stylised figure with two hands spread out. The figure with braided hair, held in seven places, is symbolic. In African and Christian spiritual teaching, the head is significant in the destiny of an individual and seven is the number of perfection in Christian religious understanding. Besides, the eyeballs of the figure are patterned into the overtly depressed but laterally elongated face, enlivened by two dramatically formed eyes. The two bright eyes of the female figure, with dropping eyelids, stare at the audience. The blouse and pant of this feminine figure are adorned with signs and symbols ingeniously inlaid to create artistic points of tension and rest, for the eyes and emotion. Many of Owoyemi’s works in this exhibition are in this mould.
In all the works featured in this exhibition, there is a pervading evocation of the elements of tension and calm in subtle manner. This is used in the patterns, signs and symbols as superficial character or clothing for the figures or forms that Owoyemi has created. More so, Owoyemi uses these elements as artistic strategy to find answers to the problem of light and shade in the three dimensional ambiance that he works. For example in another work titled, “My Choice,” aluminum on board medium, Owoyemi gets colourful with aluminum sheets sourced from discarded cans from industrial products. The audacity of usage of the elements of art as well as the unity and balance of structure and pigmentation is momentous of Owoyemi’s development. He is no longer in the category of the juveniles, professionally. He has drawn the boundary in his practice, showing the difference between the charlatan and champion in art.
Owoyemi’s works in this exhibition betray him! They reveal the aspect of him (Owoyemi) that he probably would not speak about openly – his family, religious commitment and ideological learning. A soft-spoken, jovial, adorable, shy and determined personality who carries himself about quietly, Owoyemi has been given out in the full glare of the public, by his artworks.
The images in his artworks, of elegant women, idealised female forms, and jubilant female figures are Owoyemi’s discrete homage to Bimpe, his wife who is also a committed and prolific painting artist. They are both blessed with children. In the same vein, the benign wordings of the titles of works on exhibit are another manner in which Owoyemi unknowingly lets out himself in this exhibition. The artist is an ebullient spiritual individual in the Christian group and the nomenclature that he brings to bear on his art works are insignia of his ideological and spiritual positioning. The interesting aspect of this exhibition is the manner the artworks excite the vision and emotion of the audience.
* Prof. Freeborn Odiboh, art historian, art critic and visual artist is of Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Benin, Benin City