By Tajudeen Sowole
An artist's brush strokes that are always on motion, like animated-images from 24 seconds per frame film velocity, exists in John Oyedemi's canvas. The artist's ability in creating illusion of motion and crowd effect on canvas find strong inspiration in disorganised cosmopolitan cities where movement is as constant as day and night.
|Dynamic Horsemen (2016, 97x130 cm on canvas|
And with equestrian subjects from elsewhere that are almost bursting out of the canvas, Oyedemi keeps viewers of his works mentally on motion.
Along a lobby at The Moorehoise Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos where the paintings were on display during a cloudy evening, as a body of work titled Energy, visitors to the exhibition would do with some motions, mentally, to generate a bit of warm feeling. Either the captures on canvas are from the elitist polo game or cultural Durban displays, Oyedemi applies his palette in complementing the elegance of horses in actions.
For whatever reason, most of his paintings are deodorised with fog, a style that weave some kind of mystery around the figures and sceneries. Artists deploying mist or fogs to garnish their canvas is comon, particularly to create depth. But in Oydemi's paintings, his application of colours still glow under the high intensity of the lights and shades.
Oyedemi is based in Jos, Plateau State, a relatively calm and less chaotic urban. How did his canvas emit so much motion, synonymous with chaotic urban? "I lived in Lagos, specifically Oshodi, for a long time before moving to Jos," the artist disclosed to a guest.
In Jos, the crowd mentality continued, when he "hawked in the market" as an extension of survival instinct. So, painting market scene, for Oyedemi, is releasing part of his life experience and not like falling into the battered repetitive theme path that most Nigerian artists have walked. "The market nostalgia still haunts me, even till now."
Over a decade after moving out of Lagos, the motion and energy mentality remained, particularly when he had been "visiting Lagos since 1990s." Among the market scenes in Energy is Igi Nla In The Market (2015), a common site where huge trees are found in regular large gatherings. And quite of note, some of the trees, particularly in the rural areas, have spiritual attachment, so certain sections of the dwellers believe.
Also, Oyedemi's view of Oshodi as it used to be in the pre-Babatunde Raji Fashola era formed parts of the exhibits. It's on record that the former Governor of Lagos State, Fashola, who built on the efforts of his predecessor, Sen Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was moving the state towards a new direction of sanity.
Whoever likes to take a visual analysis of the current state of the environment of Lagos has Oyedemi's Lagos Series as a window. From Lagos Rendevous (2016), a chaotic mix of street traders and molue buses, to Lagos I and II, also same year and similar mix of activities, there seems to be a resurgence of molue buses. The paintings, according to Oyedemi - a PhD holder in studio practice from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria - were done "while preparing for this exhibition," hence the currency of capture periods. Indeed, a drive through some spots, particularly in parts of Oshodi and Iyana Ipaja always suggest that insanity days of disorganised environment are returning to parts of Lagos.
All of a sudden, artists, particularly from the academia, have, in recent years, stepping beyond Master as terminal degree in Fine Arts. For Oyedemi, his Energy exhibition consolidates his PhD status. "I am the first to have a solo exhibition among my set of PhD holders in studio at ABU," he enthused. Specifically, he disclosed that the effect of black on other colours was among his key focuses for the PhD programme.
Oyedemi is a lecturer at University of Jos, Plateau state.