Thursday, 18 October 2012

With Beyond Silver Gelatin, collage art goes digital


By Tajudeen Sowole
Four years after U.S-based photographer, Dr Olusegun Fayemi showed some images of digitalised technique in Lagos, his attempt to blur the line between painting and photography comes stronger in collage form.

Currently on as Beyond Silver Gelatin: Mixed Media Photography at Quintessence Gallery Falomo, Lagos, the new works of Fayemi could have passed as collage paintings.

In Fayemi’s work, the scientific characteristics of photography is combined with art and cultural value of using images as narratives, particularly to express African contemporaneity. And that his themes, most times centre on African women and children – a mission he embarked on to offer alternative images to the west  – also makes the technique potent.


In 2009, when he showed a body of work titled Mothers of Africa at the same venue, it was all about image processing, bringing original photo shoot from black and white to diverse tones and shades of colours. With Beyond Silver Gelatin, the artist goes a step further into larger than life by cutting pieces of fabric onto the processed images in collage-like technique. The result is an impressionistic look, which makes the monochrome original either faints or fades underneath the louder and vibrant collage of fabric with the digital imaging. Adorned, Party Time, Gele and Three In One are examples of the narratives, which also produce outlines that could represent drawings.

He insists that the process “begins usually with a black and white negative that I scan under high resolution into a computer from which a fine photographic print is made.” The resulting images, he explained, is altered, using digital “to a realistic, artistic representation or an abstraction of the original.”
Three in One, by Dr Olusegun Fayemi

Bringing his science discipline to bare on his passion for art, within the context of photography, Fayemi’s experiment appears like a conscious effort to achieve painting without the conventional art studio tools. “For decades I did fine art and documentary black and white photography in the footsteps of illustrious and dedicated practitioners of the craft,” he stated. However with the dynamics of photography in recent times, seen what he noted as “unprecedented explosion of technological advances,” the boundaries between art, craft and photography is disaapearing.

From the evolution of photography and how his art is bringing new images to collapse the line between genres, comes the theme. He recalled how in photography, the gelatin silver process was used for black and white films and printing paper. For his fourth showing in Nigeria, the theme, he said, “focuses on the diversity and multiplicity of imagery that emanates from process. These images articulate the realities of contemporary Africans as they traverse a wide spectrum in the rhythm of their daily lives and they reveal timeless narratives of how Africans live and the nuances that shape those lives.”

In the past, Fayemi’s passion for image change has led to authorship of books such as Windows to the Soul: Photographs Celebrating African Women; Voices From Within: Photographs of African Children; Balancing Acts: Photographs from West Africa. All books published in the US.

Assessing the impact of his works in or changing the west’s stereotypes about Africa, Fayemi averred that it’s still a long journey as perception is hard to change.

Having shown Fayemi more than once,  Quintessence Gallery’s attraction to his work is based on the “qualities of analogue and the versatile potential of digital imaging,” the curator, Moses Ohiomokhare stated. “He is exposing us to a new art, science and practice of photography and pushing the boundaries.”

Fayemi studied photography privately with Alex Harsely and Richard Sternschuss of New York, at the New School for Research and the International Centre for Photography and Zone VI studios, Newfane, Vermont. In the last twenty-nine years, he has engaged his energies in documentary photography and this has taken him to different parts of the world.


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