Friday, 3 February 2012

IN STEEL, METAL MAN, ODOGWU FINDS JOY


(First published Saturday, November 15, 2008)
 One of the emerging Nigerian artists in metal, Fidelis Eze Odogwu,  shares his thoughts with TAJUDEEN SOWOLE on the ruggedness of shaping heavy metal.
   IT hardly requires the aid of a psychoanalyst to know that it takes serenity to achieve an acceptable degree of intellectuality in the process of creating a work of art.  This explains why most artists, particularly painters and others in the softer sub-division of the art would prefer the quietness of the night or dawn to get buried in the course of conceptualizing and producing a piece of work. Not so sculptors, particularly metal and steel artists; the demand the work requires the input of machines with noisy mechanism and a retinue of workers, mostly artisans.
  Watching Odogwu at the Universal Studios of Art, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lago, severally, it appeared that metal artists thrive in a different realm, compared to their counterparts in painting and other medium.
  For Odugwu, it's a matter of choice. "At school I did sculpture, generally, but narrowed down to metal because I like the challenges involved, the ruggedness, and also to create an identity for myself. In school, less than ten of us who graduated in sculpture specialized in metal because there was this fear that welding may result to early sight problem and blindness. But I have seen much older welders who have no sight issue, and this has given me more encouragement to put in the best in my choice of career."
Nation, a metal work by Fidelis Odogwu

   Sculptors, mostly, engage in customized work otherwise known as commission job. And often times, most artists find themselves stuck between a client's concept and the artist's input. And because the artist has a name or an identity to protect, a stalemate occurs. For Odogwu, there is no need for a stalemate, rather "there must be a meeting point, that is what makes the professional in you as an artist."
   Sometimes it is not about money, but the challenge. There are some works you know do not fit into your status as an artist, no matter the amount of money offered. But there are others you do, just to prove a point."
   In an age of technological revolution, one thinks that a metal sculptor who needs to use more of his intellectual ability should spend lesser time with the machines. "Yes, to an extent, technology has aided faster production as there are machines that cut metal and irons faster now than we used to know it. But these machines cannot assist much in individual creativity. The demand of the job for sculptors is so high. Although you have assistance from trained technicians, you still have to find time to be deep in your concept."
And there is a warning here: as much as the job requires you to be rich in intellectual input and at the same time meet up target, the need to be a business man, he argues is crucial. "Creativity is as important as the business angle. If one is not careful, the passion could take away your sense of business, so I have learnt to build business into my art." If he has been wise enough to build business into his art, there must be a target as well, such that it is possible to aim at a certain number of works within a particular period.
   He cuts in with a response that suggests there is a line between the zeal for business and the sacrosanct of creativity. "No, it doesn't work out that way. You cannot really say there is a number of works you want to do within a set period. No. What matters is my frame of mind and the quality of what I do, not the quantity."
   A member of the Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA), Odugwu must have been elated at the inaugural art exhibition of the guild titled Threshold which opened at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, last Saturday. During a chat at the event, he expressed his joy, saying that the coming together of these artists is good for the entire art community.
  "We are a group that shares the same focus and I am proud to be one of the exhibiting artists.
"The coming together of these set of artists is about protecting our profession, for today and generations to come. We share common ideology as far as art is concern and we need to protect that interest, particularly our business. The guild is though not meant for every artists, of course. However, artists do not have to come under one umbrella always because this is not the Society of  Nigerian Artists (SNA). That is why the guild is different. I am a member of SNA, I believe everybody in the guild is a member of SNA, but we have to move beyond the present situation. We need to brand art better than what we have now"
   At an exhibition that was largely dominated by paintings, Odogwu argues that every work has its own strength, no intimidation "that is the beauty of an exhibition like this. For example, at a every point, a collector may decide to move from either painting to sculpture or vise versa in his choice of collections. So, there is something for everyone."
   Ocassionaly, he finds himself among fellow sculptors as in recent art exhibition held at the Pan African University, Ajah, Lekki, Lagos. He was also part of the South American tour of three African artists from Nigeria and Benin Republic. The event held at Art Omar Carreno, Venezuela in April, 2008 and titled "Expresiones   Africanas. It featured 45 works of the artists, including paintings and sculptures. "In Venezuela I met with other artists there and exchanged ideas. I saw what some of the artists in that country do with art and I am currently doing something that is a bit out of the conventional kind of art, still experimenting though, and hope that  by the first quatre of next year it would form part of my first solo exhibition. You know it is not easy for a sculptor to just wake up one day and have a solo exhibition as other artist do regularly because it takes you so much time to finish just one work. I believe that I have the concept that is worth bringing out for a solo exhibition. You just wait and see. "
   Odogwu was born in Agbor, former Bendel State on November 17, 1970 and graduated as a Sculptor from Auchi Polytechnic, HND, in 1991. He worked with a renowned Nigerian Sculptor - Ben Osawe between 1988 and 1989.
Odogwu has participated in several group exhibitions both home and abroad. He is a member of Society of Nigerian Artists, SNA, Guild of Fine Artists Nigeria , GFAN, and Universal Studios of Art, USA.

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