By Tajudeen Sowole
Five years of art, complementing a hospitality space, in Nigeria’s business travel industry exhales visually through artist, Gbenga Offo's new period. The artist"s sculpture, described as never-seen in public adds fresh breath to his cubism painting identity.
The hospitality space, The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos, which opened for business in 2011, has, consistently, been hosting art exhibitions as a “luxury boutique hotel,” The art space, which is curated by Sandra Obiago Mbanefo engages visitors to the hotel in visual dalogue as each exhibition - across generations of Nigerian artists - is not detached from constant views of traffic flow.
More interesting, Offo, an artist known for his cubism style painting is also showing, for the first time, sculptures made in bronze and wrought iron/stainless for the hotel’s fifth anniversary. Offo is brings a body of work he titles Freedom, which is showing for over three months, ending January 15, 2017.
After a long period of his career that has projected him with a clear identity in cubism, Offo appears to be using Freedom to step into a new era. "I don't want to be labeled a cubist," he tells a select preview guests. And now, a reluctant cubist, Offo escapes into Freedom of sculptures, but still retains his signature as an artist with bold features in figure rendition. In the exhibition are also, a set of abstract pieces and forms generated through flow of colours, which he groups as Splash. And under Sketches are portraits done with conte on paper, burdened in painterly shades of drawing strokes.
From Flip, an expression of self-esteem; to Hope I, Hope II, expectancy in elongated busts series; and minimalism impressions Mutual Respect, Offo steps into a bronze sculpture period of his career. And adding to this new period are, among others, a trace of his cubist identity, in Sweet Conversation; and simplified figural of joyous mood, Happy People, all expressed in wrought iron and stainless steel.
Though showing his sculpture work in public for the first time, the artist discloses that sculpturing has always been part oi his studio work. "It's not as if I never did sculpture, but I just didn't show them." As his cubism period was inspired by the 20th century master of the movement, Pablo Picasso, so the attempt at sculpture. "The day I knew Picasso did quite a lot of sculpture, it was like a freedom day for me," Offo recalls.
However, the air of Freedom at Wheatbaker, to a large extent is still populated with the artist's cubist identity. His bold features-style of cubism continues with paintings such as Woman with Scarf, Once Upon A Time, Reclining Woman with Newspaper and Story Teller, among others that stress the essence of colour on Lagos art landscape.
Sponsored by Veuve Clicquot and the Wheatbaker, the exhibition represents the mood of the Nigerian people. "The theme of the exhibition reflects the challenges we go through as a people," Obiago states. She notes "Freedom is a special exhibition" that is important in marking the fifth anniversary of "Wheatbaker as art destination hotel in Nigeria."
In a pres statement, the hotel takes pride in being a space for creative expression. “We are proud to have created a dynamic platform for international and local artists to experiment and present new creative expressions,” commented Mosun Ogunbanjo, a Director of the luxury hotel. “We will continue to ensure that despite Nigeria’s current economic recession, the Wheatbaker provides quality services and strengthens creativity and innovation.”
Offo, b. 1957, graduated as best Art and Graphic Student from the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos in 1984. He worked for a decade as an illustrator for leading advertising agencies Lintas and Insight Communications, before becoming a full time studio artist in 1996. Offo has taken part in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United Kingdom and Nigeria, and his works are in many leading corporate and public collections.