By Tajudeen Sowole
Serialising of themes, which often energises the value of art appreciation, takes a full swing in artist Segun Aiyesan’s just held solo exhibition, which attempts to unravel the complexity of achieving true world order.
Inside the ground floor of Signature Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the exhibition titled Oeuvre held for 10 days, Aiyesan's technique of "textured canvas" roves across modernism painting and a set of works he categorised as "geometric sculpture." The body of work includes his old and new series.
|From Oeuvre, Segun Aiyesan’s Northern Belle|
Tracking Aiyesan's technique of aging the canvas over the years, it now appears that the new body of work stresses the Port Harcourt-based painter's mastery of the textured surface. In fact Aiyesan textured canvas challenges foiling and other family of relief printing.
And more importantly, the artist's revisit of his trajectory with the old meeting the new series strengthens the philosophy behind the themes and importance of serialising works. Most times, the motivation or goal behind some artists' series, are hardly explained or convincing. But Aiyesan's Oeuvre appears to have raised the bar in this context, giving more bite to series.
Of all the series featured in Oeuvre - old and new - two of them such as Voyeur, Men in Boxes and Mad Dog are profound on areas such as issues shaping collective and personal instability of people, self-confinement of individuals and amazing world of contrasts.
In Green House, from the Voyeur series, for example, the artist creates dialogue between a man and God over change of a "cross." The conversation that follows and the end results suggest that life is not about desperation for change or asking God for favours that compete with other people’s, but how best to make something out of what is given. But as an art piece, Green House and those in the family of textured box such as World Within, Haven and Concilliabules leap Aiyesan's work from relief painting unto sculptural surface.
The Voyeur series, he discloses, are inspired by constant and unpleasant activities across the world. “Everyday we hear of news of disaster and criminalities around the world," Aiyesan states a day ahead of the opening of Oeuvre.
Though the works under Men in Boxes series are paintings, the attempt to create physical sculptural feeling by the artist's style of illusion of actual boxes touches the heart of the theme. Sub-serialised as Confinement 1 and 2, the works, which practically depict people who are sub-consciously boxed in self-confinement, pierce psychoanalysis blade through the heart of docility.
A two side of a story is explained in one of the Angry Man series as the two-piece Once Upon A Time places the late South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela alongside the notorious German warlord Adolph Hitler. Indeed, the two personalities have, separately, shaped each generation or period they lived, such that history will continue to remember them. The artist's picturisation of each portrait says so much about who stands for what: a clinched and raised fist of Mandela which represents solidarity contrasts Hitler's military command of arm gesture. " Aiyesan describes the Nazist leader as someone who brought “coercion, brute force and genocidal cleansing” and “attempted to propagate the most bestial" and horrendous "code of order" in the world.” For Aiyesan"s Mandela, it's a great effort in liberating his people "and blazed the trail for many in the fight for freedom and self determination all over the world." He argues that Mandela was "an ambassador of peace and reconciliation through the rest of his life."
And just as one wonders how the artist arrive at grouping the Mandela and Hitler portraits under the Mad Dog Series, Ire Angry Man and an identical portrait Angry Man, widen the curiousity. Perhaps the contrasting characters of Mandela and Hitler are the real point being stressed by the artist
However, the role of women in the world order, particularly in influencing the policy direction of men in leadership position counts. While men are expected to apply the natural powers bestowed on them, it appears that women, as soft as they are, take control. A piece on the controversial role the first woman, Eve, in disturbing the peace of the world 'in the beginning’ is revisited in Aiyesan's The Conversation. For conspiring with the serpent or Satan to mislead Adam, Eve has been bashed by analysts across generations.
But Aiyesan's work, from the textured canvas period argues in favour of the woman. A composite of male and female nudes separated by serpent imprinted fruit tree, contextualises what the artist describes as the "failure" of Adam to apply his God-given knowledge and control over Eve. “It was the man’s failure to take control; not the woman’s fault.