Friday, 3 May 2013

Soundspiration… Balogun’s visual journey into voices


By Tajudeen Sowole
About three years after the sculptor, Adeola Balogun started giving another life, faintly though, to discarded rubber tyre as part of the content of his art, the artist has expanded the scope into a major form of his visual narration.

IN his last solo show, Ants and Giants, Balogun included what he called, Bull Series, with a glimpse of shredded-tyre. But his current effort, Soundspiration, which opens today, and ending May 17, at Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos takes the concept higher, focusing on atmospheric sound, nature and others.

Aside from Ants and Giants, he had also used the non-biodegradable materials in his 2010 show, Infinite Patterns, which was largely dominated by non-figural concepts. 
Adeola Balogun’s Vestige of Dad’s Gramophone, showing in Soundspiration

Balogun stated that the theme is motivated by the presence of sound in every creature. He added that there is peculiar ‘use of sounds’ in different creations. Aside from his attempt to interpret the theme visually, Balogun goes practical. He assured that there would be a sound installation, depicting the various familiar natural sounds of the environment.

Some of the works, in life sizes of woven shredded-tyres of figures are infused with musical instruments such as native Yoruba talking-drums (gangan), violins, saxophones, gojes, and trumpets.

This much, he explained, is to stress the “relationship between music and visual arts” as well as their importance to humanity. Following the advent of conceptual art, sound installation art has gradually built on the success of the former, almost finding a place in visual arts lexicon, across the world. However, in Nigeria, aside from the artist, Emeka Ogboh, who employs sound, it is still a struggling medium. 

Though none of the works from Soundspiration was available for preview, a soft copy images show that works done in shredded tyre materials would be of dominant during the show, apparently stepping into another period of the artist.

Balogun, in the past, had used metal in what he tagged, Seeds Phenomenon series. For his current show, a work like the stylised trumpeter, Mind Blowing, in a woven shredded tyre and others in glaring representational figures are sign of a shift from the artist’s past shows, more of abstraction.

The works, however, represent Balogun’s image as one of the leading names in public monuments. Balogun’s works in public places include Obafemi Awolowo Statue at Allen Avenue Junction, Ikeja, Lagos; Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun’s statue in Ondo; Funso Williams statue at Costain Roundabout, Lagos; busts of Legendary colonial era business woman, Madam Tinubu and first colonial Governor of Lagos, Sir John Glover at Marina, Lagos. 

For the figural works in Soundspiration, stylising or satirical draws the line between his public monuments and art shows. For example, from a 2-D piece, and tribute to the annulled presidential election of June 12, 1993 comes Symphony of Hope. He explains, “it ignited my interest in the adoption of musical instruments and notes as a metaphor.”

Moving from one period to another so fast that Balogun’s followers hardly assimilate his last style or technique before being confronted with another appears like a race between time and idealism so suggests the artist’s endless thirst for experimenting with materials, creating more radical contemporary medium. He discloses that it’s a commitment to “constantly seek for the potency inherent in a plethora of tangible materials to re-engage them in my visual deliberations,” adding that his creative obligation compels him to “sieve through them, hold on and interpret those that affect me most profoundly.”

And for rubber trye waste, which is often burnt in Nigeria, imploring such in creating art, Balogun said is his own little way of helping to manage the complex waste. “Used pneumatic tyres are regarded as a worldwide menace due to their non-biodegradable nature, which ironically makes them a viable medium for my visual practice.”

However, a revisit of his metallic rendition comes in works such as Vestige of Dad’s Gramophone and Accompanied, though blended in the Soundspiration focus.

For Omenka Gallery, “Balogun is one of the most exciting sculptors” in Nigeria. The director of the gallery, Oliver Enwonwu, states: “Balogun belongs to an exceptional generation of artists firmly establishing themselves on the Lagos exhibition circuit with their embrace of unconventional media and techniques, and their interrogation of the larger society.” 

The artist’s work, Enwonwu noted, “continue to spark interest with his recent series of bulls fashioned out of rubber tyres. Coupled with a successful career as a lecturer in sculpture at the prestigious Yaba College of Technology, Balogun holds an eminent place among Nigerian contemporary artists.”

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