Saturday, 24 October 2009

Kaleidoscope… Odebiyi steps solo

IT was like a homecoming for Nurudeen Odebiyi when the Harmatan Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos, organised his just concluded debut solo show.
In 2004, when the gallery celebrated the beneficiaries of the Harmatan Workshops, Odebiyi was one of those that ‘impressed’ at the event called Harvest of the Harmattan Retreat, which held at the Pan African University, Ajah, Lagos.
With about 36 works of his on display at the show, Kaleidoscope, Odebiyi made a statement about his mission to step on, alone, as against his previous hiding under the canopy of group and workshop exercises.
From an early stint in the advertising industry after he left Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos, in the early 1990s to full time studio practice in 2002, regaining loss ground at the mainstream art gallery scene was not as difficult as he had anticipated, he said.
How far he has gone in his attempt to catch up with the highly competitive art gallery scene was obvious in his work, just as he admitted, “being in the advertising sub- division of the creative sector has added to my art.”
A technique, which he called panel painting, seemed to be his strength, as the rendition gives an impression of pieces of materials lined up in panel format.

THERE was something about New Transformation (oil on canvas) that interrupts the flow of identity seen in this show.
In fact, this depiction of one of the notorious areas where Lagos State government is currently making impact in urban orderliness looks like Odebiyi’s early attempt at impressionism.
Most likely, an aerial view of Oshodi, the ruggedness and rough surface look of the 19th century art form may have been taken too far thus distorting some basic details.
It is not uncommon to see such works; perhaps this artist and others like him jostle with the idea of taking this art form to another stage in 21st century.
Between 1880s, when it became popular and the early 20th century, the brush and palette strokes of impressionism changed from mild, visible movement to a more pronounced feature, hence the expression, post-impressionism.
“That is what makes one an experimental artist; I am still evolving; in fact every artist keeps researching,” Odebiyi argued.
With an untitled piece — a night toning of a woman playing with some oranges — New Transformation should take cover, considering the gele and buba and some spotlighting of the background, alive in the thickness of the palette! This is impressionism truly mystified.
Enhancing this work, however, was a touch of cubism, apparently picked up from one of the masters in his former school, Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos.
“Yes, school or whatever background one was coming from, would always have influence in your art, but then an individual’s creative instinct makes the difference as seen in most of my works. I try to create an identity for myself,” he said.
Comparatively, Part Time, African Beauties and others in that forms look like that attempt to get away from the Yaba stylistic cocoon.
All works for the show, in oil on canvas and acrylic, he says, were created “between 2007 to date.”

Odebiyi is a product of several artistic influences. But the Harmatan experience, he says, “gave me tremendous confidence to keep working as an artist, and also expanded my facility to work in several media, and draw ideas not only from urban Nigeria, but also from the countryside.”
His outings include shows at Giraj Gallery, Geobi Gallery, and the inaugural maiden show held by Mydrim Gallery in Ikoyi Lagos.
Last year, the Harmattan Gallery at the Art Expo Nigeria 2008, which held at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos Island, featured his work.

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