By Tajudeen Sowole
It took Bolaji Ogunwo's resistance against admirers' preference to discover that an artist's worth goes beyond churning out of portraitures.
And having escaped that confinement, Ogunwo probably had to also contend with the reality of widely or ‘over used’ themes. Conclusively, he settled to "do the same thing, but differently," leading to a body of work titled Visual Cocktail, the artist's second solo exhibition, which starts showing from tomorrow, March 8 to.15, 2014 at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.
One of the Will Power Series of Bolaji Ogunwo
In 2009, Ogunwo, a lecturer at the Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos had his first solo. During a chat about Visual Cocktail, Ogunwo recalled how the ex-vice chancellors of Unilag as the central themes of the exhibition thrilled visitors to the portraits show. The following deluge of offers, he said, nearly derailed his broader vision for art.
For Visual Cocktail, some of the works, viewed in soft copies include inspirational, recreations and environments as well a flavour of portraiture. In a series of three, titled Will Power, Ogunwo brings simple domestic chore like laundry into the context of self-determination. A young man drying cloths on the lines looks too ordinary, and perhaps one of the repetitive themes seen on canvas of some artists. But the inspiration behind Ogunwo's rendition of the Will Power series is inviting. The artist disclosed that the concept "is inspired by a young man who is self employed through washing people's clothes in his neighborhood."
He argued that the power of vision enables people to see beyond whatever challenges confronting them at a particular period. "The best way to see is through the mind, not eyes." He also stressed that "experience is not the best teacher; wisdom is the interpretation of knowledge."
Some of the quotes used by the artist include Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different result is insanity, by Albert Einstein; Winners don't do different things; they do things differently,’ Shiv Khera; and Plato’s Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools speak because they have to say something.
The works are indeed infested with known scholarly texts. Would such inclusion not take away the originality of Ogunwo's intellectual effort on canvas? "Bringing other scholars’ text into my painting is not a contradiction of copyright." He explained that the inclusion is his contribution "to use my visual language in promoting reading culture and draw people's attention to the need for greater virtue."
Some of the other works in the list of 30 paintings for the exhibition include Voyage Series, Vision. The Chase and Smile.
Stressing his belief in infinity of any theme, Ogunwo cited an example of how one of his Oshodi paintings "was a success during a recent visit to Sweden." He noted that in Stockholm, people were amazed that indeed such a place of disorderliness existed. The painting, he disclosed, “is now in the collection of the Nigerian Embassy in Sweden."
And from Sweden he also brings landscapes that share identical scenery with some part of Lagos. This much, he expresses in Voyage Series. "The riverside scene of a place called Leadingo, in Stockholm is similar to that of Ijora in Lagos." Also in the Voyage series is Elmina Castle, Ghana, "which shares aquatic similarity with Lagos."
Returning to the art exhibition turf after a long break, he explained, "is not just to fulfill all righteousness." As a scholar, Visual Cocktail is important to his field, more for the inclusion of quotes from great thinkers. "This exhibition is more important to me by promoting the values of these great minds through my visual language."
In his Artist Statement, Ogunwo described his art as going through constant critiquing as well as appreciation. He stated: “ Attempt to chart a course for a stylistic and thematic direction was quite cumbersome. However, somewhere along the line I found these philosophical anvils on which I have hammered my creative prowess into a definite shape.
“Armed with this thoughts, I decided not to do different things but to temper my creative license in a different manner.
My art is not mimetic but Cathartic; it's a chromatic interpretation of places and events that have engaged my artistic psyche.
“My rich texture is not mere flamboyance or extravagance but a laudable feat that has received global recognition hence I have consolidated my rapport with my palette to churn out works that are didactic and enduring."