By Tajudeen Sowole
WHEN the designer-sculptor, Raqib Bashorun's passion for functional art finds a common space with that of Chika Idu's painting that draws attention to endangered Lagos coastline, art as a medium of inspiration for development is emphasised.
In over a decade, Bashorun, who works in wood and metal, has been advocating for artists' recognition and input into Nigeria's search for technological development. His new body of work in wood, metal and found-objects find synergy with Idu's experimental technique in the exciting texture of light distortion as they are currently showing Evolving Currents till June 16, at The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lsgos.
If there is any Nigerian artist whose work has what it takes to strengthen contemporary content and collapse the line between art and design, Bashorun fits such identity. And if one has to go by the Yoruba modern adage that says, 'fi igbe le fun agbe 'po' (leave waste for its carrier), Bashorun’s work echoes as much as he keeps suggesting that the debate over art and design should be left for the academics to sort out.
For Evolving Currents, Bashorun fetes the strength of number to drive his argument about advancement of a country and its people. Some of his works in this exhibition argue that Nigeria needs to pick a vital lesson from China, a country, which has used its numerical strength to advance its technological drive.
In recent years, Idu's canvas has developed empathy for children and young adults whose ancestries are rooted along coastal axis of Lagos. The inherent exposure of these fragile inhabitants to water pollution continues to attract the artist's palette, so suggest his works in this exhibition.
"Nigerian art is original and rich in resources to inspire the right technological development," Bashorun assures as he takes select guests through a section of his works at The Wheatbaker. He adds that 'the power of number" is complimentary to technological development, and Nigeria, he boasts, has the numerical strength to advance its economy.
A metal sculpture Bashorun titles, Eastern Dragon, supports his argument, as the piece, made from discarded steel parts of automobile, embolden the concept of a daring effort to scale though hurdle. With two antennas protruding upwards as well as about 11 nails rammed into the beast's back and a fierce depiction of face, there is no doubt about the link between dragon and boldness, at least from the sculptor’s perspective. Still on the thematic focus on the power of number, a wood and soft metal wall piece titled. Ebb and Flow adds another texture.
Over one and half decades ago, Idu started his adventure into the technique he now describes as "distortion" of light. The painter recalls how he suddenly realises that the details of light "reflects and bounces."
Idu's technique of "light against visual distortion" actually belongs to the family of impressionism. And when he chooses to implore such technique for underwater themes as his works in Evolving Currents explain, the terrain appears familiar.
As disturbing as the sight of polluted water along coastal areas is to Idu's psyche, he appears more at home in representing his experience in the positive perspective. Most of the paintings that capture children swimming are depicted in clean water as against polluted environment. The idea of distortion, the artist explains "is to present how the water should be in clean condition for the children to enjoy swimming."
In addition to Idu's environmental theme are Portrait Series, which deals with the right of women. He recalls the experience that inspired the series and expresses his "worries whenever the right of a woman is trampled on." But he brings respite in the paintings with his idea of red colour spots, which he says represens "power" of the lady despite the dominating dark or black of the painting.
Under the curatorial direction of Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago and Oliver Enwonwu, Evolving Currents, according to the handlers "is hinged on the juxtaposed placement of each artist’s work." The curators note what they describe as "the geometric and abstract forms, as well as the rigidity and hardness of Bashorun’s sculpture against the palpable impasto, delineating the more fluid figures and forms that populate Idu’s 26 canvases."
Art in its functional form has contributed to advancement of technology across many fields in other climes. Why do Nigerian artists appear under-utitlised in the country's search for technology-driven economy? Bashorun notes that other professionals in science fields were not reaching out. He cites his experience, explaining that for over two decades of using his art - via exhibitions and publication to promote the potentials of art and designs, nobody has approached him me for collaboration.
"Both artists have spent the better part of their careers teaching art and inspiring young talent to find their own expression. Both artists address Nigeria’s need to progress and evolve into an equitable society through subtle political and environmental messages," Mbanefo-Obiago explains her tracking of the artists over the year. Enwonwu, Director at Omenka Gallery adds: "Overall, the works are strongly individual, a personal journey and testament to each artist’s development, and an ultimate vehicle to convey a quest for empirical truth. In turn, the collective of works is unique as a collaboration between 2 curators, an exhibition that is hopefully the first in a series that will contribute significantly to narratives of contemporary art in Nigeria."
Excerpts about the artists' bio say: Bashorun, born in 1955, is one of Nigeria's most avant-garde sculptors. His exemplary career as an artist and teacher is marked by significant exhibitions held in the United States and Nigeria. Bashorun holds a MFA in Sculpture with a minor in Drawing (2002), and an M.Ed (Art Education, 1984) from the University of Missouri in Columbia, USA.
Since 1995, Bashorun has been Principal Lecturer at the School of Art, Design and Printing, Yaba College of Technology, where he has held numerous distinguished positions including, Chief Lecturer and Head of the Department of Graphics from 2005-2008.
Idu, born in 1974, is one of Nigeria's emerging artists, who studied painting at the Auchi Polytechnic in Edo State from 1993-1998. He was instrumental in the creation of the Defactori Studios, a collective of dynamic new generation artists. He also created Nigeria’s first Water Colour Society of Artists (SABLES). Idu has taken part in numerous group and solo exhibitions.
Idu’s works are characterised by a heavy texture and hazy rendition technique, which he calls 'light against visual distortion'. For the past 16 years, he has been committed to exposing the plight of the African child; recently he began an environmental campaign on the risks faced by children living in coastal slums. Besides teaching art at the Lycee Francais Louis Pasteur in Lagos, Idu works in his Ikorodu studio.