Infinite Treasures III is the third in the series of pleasurable treasures of paintings on canvases, drawings on papers, wood and metal/bronze sculptures. The exhibition ran from November 4 to November 13, 2017 at the Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria. The first and second shows of the same title, which was held at the same venue were staged in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
In recent years, I am more or less a visitor to Lagos, thus; I considered myself lucky to have witnessed Infinite Treasures I and II, which were inspiring. The consistent artists from the first show to this third 2017 exhibition are Kolade Oshinowo, Reuben Ugbine, Abiodun Olaku, Bunmi Babatunde, Sam Ovraiti, Edosa Ogiugo, Duke Asidere, Alex Nwokolo, Fidelis Eze Odogwu and Diseye Tantua. Two or three other artists are usually added to the list as they deemed fit. Tayo Quaye, Segun Adejumo, Mufu Onifade and Segun Aiyesan were artists who took part in one or two of the previous shows, but not involved in the 2017 edition. Lekan Onabanjo and Joshua Nmesironye are the new additions to this year’s show, thereby swelling the names to 12 artists in all. Starting with Oshinowo, the paintings will be discussed first before the sculptures with a brief note on the drawings.
‘Evening Market’ is one of Oshinowo’s oil on canvas exhibits. His market scenes are legendary and ever in demand. This is one of the master’s masterpieces in his usual busy market scenario of a rural setting with unhindered commercial messages in the forms of traders and wares dragging the audience into the fray without stress. There is an easy of colouring in the painting with quaintly employed hues of brownish houses, earth and people dominated landscape. Oshinowo aided the browns and umbers with touches of ochres, reds and greenish boughs in the distant background reaching out to the uninterested sky in branches of commercial camaraderie.
“Owambe” is another Oshinowo’s oil on canvas painting. The title; Owambe is a Yoruba word or slang for a well-attended shindig. The work is a visual documentary of gorgeously dressed ladies in matching Yoruba attires of buba tops, wrappers and head wraps with matching necklaces, ear-rings and other accoutrements. It is an ‘aso-ebi'(uniform dressing for special occasion among the Yoruba) visual display by Oshinowo. Apart from the ladies in the foreground, there is a crowd of other ladies dressed in the same aso-ebi in the background. Extravagance and fashionable essence of Yoruba women is the main message of the work.
“The Princess” is an acrylic/oil on canvas portrait painting in Oshinowo’s typical style. His “Before the Party” is a mixed media on canvas depiction of three young girls, probably sisters, dressed up and looking forward to the party. “The Princess” and “Before the Party” are Oshinowo’s personalised visual messages for public discussions and introspective comparison.
Abiodun Olaku’s “Northern Shadows” is oil on canvas painting of slightly shadowy realism of a Northern Nigeria scene before darkness enveloped the daylight while heralding the arrival of night. “All for One (series)” is another oil on canvas painting by Olaku. This is a story of a lighted night scene. It is a night parade for the living by the living for the dead and the survivors. It is a metaphor on hope and beliefs. The desired lights in our life that helped lit our way to success. A scene of soulful silhouettes from an aerial view at night. It has grays and black forms with glowing orange and white lights on mostly grayish background. “Golden Embrace (Oko Baba series)” is a typical Olaku realism cum romantic display of his mastery of night scenes and dancing rays of light reflections on water surfaces. It is another painting of a night scene hulled out of Oko Baba water side landscape before darkness covers everything up. Olaku masterfully depicts the shadowy shanty structures spread across the moon lit night. The moon is realistically stationed in the sky, while her rays of light romance the water surface of Oko Baba riverine neighbourhood in a glorious ‘golden embrace’.
Olaku’s “Lucifer’s Call Card” is a painting on the ugly side of socio-religious subject of fundamentalism, fanatics, extremism and terrorism, which is a hidden form of Satanism. Lucifer is Satan, the devil: Satan is Lucifer and vice versa. The work is a subterfuge message to religious fanatics and extremists, who engaged in burning down other people’s place of worshiping God, like the burning churches in some part of Northern Nigeria. After some time, they started attacking Muslims and Mosques too. Thus, exposing themselves as children/urchins of Lucifer, and as certified Satanists, devils in human forms. Hitherto, they hide under the guise of Islam, but it is just a grand deception, they belonged to the devil.
By their bloodletting and heartlessness, it clearly shows that they are only carrying out “Lucifer’s Call Card.”
Olaku masterfully employed black and umbers of gloom and doom in the painting. The inferno of burning fires of wars and woes from Lucifer’s children is represented by the orange, yellow and white flames spreading skyward with blazing terror. Defiant silhouette structures of churches or whatever religious edifices on fire are depicted still standing; symbolically because God is the Almighty of all ages. He creates and conquers all.
Sam Ovraiti’s “The Paradise of Indecision” is a mixed media on canvas of faces of two ladies in the dilemma of indecisiveness. One of the ladies is starring into the interesting space before her, while the second beautiful head is already dreaming her ways to paradise in deep slumber. Mostly brownish composition with emotion laden textured canvas expressing the not happy mood of the ladies therein. The grayish faces and features of the ladies makes one wonder whether they are Africans or Europeans? Well, it only adds to the mystery and globalized aura of the work from a master of his artistic odyssey.
“Colourful Generation (Prevailing Culture)” is an abstractly stylized painting on canvas in Ovraiti’s usual style and colours of yellows, few blues, greens, magenta, browns and others. Discernable stylised forms of fashionable ladies primping for men, parties and happy times. Usage of African mask forms and motifs marked the work out in a distinguished manner.
The colourfulness of the ladies comes with a charming glow like the sun brightens our Africa throughout the year. “Make-up Generation” is another oil painting by Ovraiti. It is a social commentary on the excessive application of make-up on faces by ladies nowadays. It is commonplace in the society to encounter an abuse of primping in most places and even at odd hours when make-ups are not needed. “Make-Up Generation” is a continuation of “Colourful Generation” in a slightly derogatory form. Ovraiti in his typical creative approach synthesized African masks, which he employed as stylized well make-up faces of the ladies in the painting.
Edosa Ogiugo’s “Memories” is an impressive hazy oil on canvas landscape. His command of the colours is usually a standard statement with Ogiugo. The impressionistic mastery of the painting is the fact that it is finished without too much finishing which might kill the work. But, an experienced master such as Edosa knew just when to put a new canvas on his easel. It is rare for an artist to paint from a life model in this society that was what Ogiugo did in “Seated Model (Life Painting).” It is an oil on canvas well painted seated lady. She has on a reddish top over a blue violet pant on a dark background. The work comes with a good facial expression and finishing. Ogiugo also exhibited some drawings with his ever reliable and challenging strokes in charcoals or pencils that always end up in dramatic and enticing figures.
Duke Asidere’s “The Celebrant” is an abstract expressionistic painting on canvas with an induced message. A deeper and more scrutinising study reveals the hidden forms of celebrating figures in hue of blue greens, browns and purples among others. “Why” is the painting of a seated lady in Asidere’s peculiar expressionistic chromatic mode and mood. The work is executed with a palette dominated by blues and violets. “A New Search” and “No Word” are two oil paintings by Asidere on the theme of seated ladies without heads. But, he gave the seated lady in “The Experience” a mask-like face, thus giving the head a metaphoric interpretation. Maybe he is trying to imply with his headless ladies that their brains are usually emotionally lost in the wind, especially when it is time for serious logical reasoning. Apart from “The Celebrant”, Asidere’s other paintings on display are thematically on seated ladies. Probably, like most men, he is still having problems understanding women.
Alex Nwokolo’s painting; “Yellow Market” is a yellow dominated market scene. It is an interesting dilly-dallying between different stylistic tendencies. A scenic impression of endless hustling from one end to another was successfully created. “Cathedral in the City” by Nwokolo is a work in which he attempted to globalized religious and other issues from a Nigerian perspective. “Power Play” is a mixed media by Nwokolo whereby he folded papers into desired shapes and paints to create simplistic figures of four with some assumed but unseen crowd in the background of the power players. Contextually, “Power Play” is probably a socio-political commentary on the ethnic political rivalry in Nigeria.
I wished the work had more colours for deeper and more symbolic significance. This stylistic simplification of forms and content was noticed in another Nwokolo’s mixed media of paper and hues on canvas work, “The Caliphate III”. The work is another paper play with limited colours of suggested turbaned heads in rows. The turbaned heads allegorically represent the Northern part of Nigeria which is traditionally under the Caliphate system.
• Rasheed Amodu is an artist, art historian/critic. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria