Monday, 27 April 2009

20 years on, George steps in from wilderness

Enenebe Eje Olu 2

OLISA Nwadiogbu, painter, sculptor, printmaker, bronze caster and cultural activist, is a graduate of Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu.
The multi-media artist, who says his drawing and painting of figures, are the bases for his output, will be showing his recent works in oil, acrylic and metal foils early next month in a show titled My Wilderness Journey.
Showing at the main Exhibition Hall of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments Onikan, Lagos, from May 3 to 8, he says, “it is to mark my 20 years of full time studio practice.”
In his words, “art is not created in a vacuum, it is directed by the society, in which the artists live and work. The main objectives of my works are: Message, Entertainment and Aesthetics.”
According to the respected artist, “I work mostly from imagination using oil colours, acrylic, water colours, metal foils, glue, resin, bronze etc. My works are influenced by some past Nigerian masters and African sculptures. Usually the subject matter ranges from traditional concept and more contemporary concepts with narrative themes that make environmental, political and humanitarian statements.”
He adds, “my desire to experiment has evolved a style of bright palettes, stylised and elongated forms. My figures are very monumental, I am a painter by training, and in my heart I am a sculptor. I found myself working with sculptors such as the late Professor Ben Enwonwu, Chiedu Okala, Emma Mbanefo, Tonie Emordi, Jide Emordi, Cy Nwaokoli, Obi Ekwenchi, Frank Anammah, Ato Arinze, to mention a few.”
Having lived and worked with the notable names during his formative age, “I have had the privilege of interacting with virtually all Nigerian contemporary art masters such as Bruce Onobrakpeya, David Dale, Isiaka Osunde, Dele Jegede, Jimoh Buraimoh, Muraina Oyelami, Demas Nwoko, Ben Osawe, Uche Okeke, Nsikak Essien, Kolade Oshinowo, El Anatsui, Chris Afuba, Obiora Udechukwu, etc. The interaction with this kindred spirit has added a lot to my maturity and attitude in the visual art circle.”

NWADIOGBU started his art journey in 1980, when he entered IMT, Enugu. He did his youth service at Abuja where he taught art at Federal Government College Kwali, Abuja. However, before then, he had taught art and other subjects in Boys High School and Comprehensive High School both in Onitsha respectively.
“My ambition was to teach art at Federal Government College and that is what brought me to Lagos in 1987. Fortunately or unfortunately, the teaching job became elusive. Then I used to visit the Universal Studio of Arts besides the Red-brick building, where you have Aina Onabolu Gallery at Iganmu. There I met the likes of Abiodun Olaku, Felix Osieme, Babatunde, Alex Shyngle, Ali Christopher and others of like minds, who were also starting to practice and make small money from their practice.”
The full time studio practice was actually the idea of his cousin, Alex Obiogbolu. After an elusive job hunt, without success, he (Alex) went to make business cards designating “me as managing director and himself as chairman. I brought in Emmanuel Mbanefo as the creative director; having worked with his destiny studio in Onitsha. Then I used to look at him as an art god who had solution to all art problems. We started handling commissions in partnership with some architects and the money started rolling in, but before you know it, the partnership broke up due to lack of trust and youthful exuberance.”

DURING this turbulent period in the art company, Nwadiogbu met Chief E.S.O. Olisambu, then managing director of First Bank, and later, UBA.
“At that time, he was in UBA as DGM Controls. My meeting Olisambu was the turning point in my career. Olisambu is a big art enthusiast and connoisseur. He would always say to me ‘I am in the wrong profession to project the right profession.’ This is, whenever I reminded him that he did not behave like a banker,” he retorts.
In 1989, the first litmus text and baptism of fire came, Olisambu was organising an exhibition titled: Vision for Excellence, in collaboration with the Mosurs, the owners of home design centre, a furniture outfit in Apapa.
He invited Nwadiogbu to participate in that exhibition with 28 other artists; including Bruce Onobrakpeya, Okpu Eze, David Dale, Roland Ogiamen, Ben Osawe, Jimoh Buraimoh, among others. The up-coming among the group were Friday Idugie, Kunle Adeyemi, Oyerinde Olotu, Sunday Afolayan, Emmanuel Mbanefo, Nse Abasi Inyang, Lara-Ige etc.
Since then, his art has grown, as he says, “ in all leaps and bounds, and the journey is still on hence the title of my present exhibition Wilderness Journey, which I am dedicating to all creative souls and patrons who had stood by me over the years such as Maduegbunam, Engr. Yemisi Shyllon, Dr. Amaechi Obiora, Mike Oduah, Alhaji Abdulazzi Ude, Chike Nwagbogu, Peter Areh, Angela Onyeador, Olajide Bello, Jas Egbunike, Ora Egbunike, Sammy Olagbaju, Dotun Sulaimon, Rasheed Gbadamosi, Olasehinde Odimayo, Ato Arinze, Emmanuel Mbanefo, Ben Enwonwu, Kunle Adeyemi, David Dale and Ike Emeagwali, among others.”

HAVING been involved in full time studio practice for 20 years, he says, “I believe I am a success already. If I have no money, I don’t mind as far as art is concerned, I would have done other things if I wanted. To me, financial success is no success in art. The basis of my art is my mission not my commission. In the works on display in this wilderness journey, my three main objectives is to educate, entertain and beautify.”

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